Wabi
REVIEW January 3, 2013
Overall Value
out of 5
Food 
Service 
Ambience 
Wabi, 36-38 Kingsway, London, WC2B 6EY

On the eastern fringe of Covent Garden, a smart basement Japanese restaurant with a rather corporate atmosphere and quite high prices (especially on the wine front); for business entertainment, though, it has its attractions, and the lunch menu is a value-proposition well worth seeking out.

Notably friendly staff are one of the attractions of this smart new basement Japanese, on the ‘wrong’ (Eastern) side of Kingsway. They still seemed a touch startled, though, when the ace Harden’s inspection team (in this case, a solitary luncher) walked in. ‘Are you from the hotel’, the desk man enquired, kindly, trying to make sense of it all.

It rather seems, then, that this is a restaurant which is not – yet – accustomed to much lunchtime walk-in business. That’s a shame, as the lunch menu here is well worth seeking out. We went for the Bento Lunch (£17.50), which – in the range and quality of the dishes – is one of the most ambitious we can recall (excluding the ridiculous Hakkasan-group newcomer Crystan, of course, but that’s another story altogether). The box comprised a range of sushi, and of sashimi, and some cooked fish, as well as a very tasty chicken pancake-sandwich and a bowl of miso soup. If that doesn’t sound very filling, it wasn’t, but the attention to detail, the tastes and the textures were impressive throughout.

Fortunately, then, the Bento box left ample space for a pudding – on the evidence of the elegantly plated assembly of salted caramel ice-cream, pancake and chestnut we enjoyed, these are well worth leaving space for. The waitress even prompted us to have a coffee – she promised, in the face of all the precedents of Japanese restaurants, that it would be good’ and our espresso was indeed surprisingly impressive.

That coffee was, however, also £3, hinting at one key reservation about this place which is that, à la carte, the prices seem rather high. In fact, drinking water here – tap was willingly brought – seems a good idea all-round, as even quite modest clarets, for example, quickly whizz past the £50 mark. The other major drawback is that, though the setting is comfortable enough, the rather rectilinear layout of this decidedly rectangular basement makes for a setting whose atmosphere tips inescapably towards the corporate.

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