Walnut Miso Udon at Koya

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“Wow! Who knew walnut and miso could pack such a flavour punch?” When the first spoonful (Time Out helpfully gives instructions on how to eat the dish*) hits your mouth, you’re guaranteed to be impressed and surprised. Sweet, deeply nutty and earthy; hot water is instantly transformed into perfect broth.

“Where Burger and Lobster was pure entertainment, this was pure art”

The menu on Tuesday has both a hot broth with hot noodles and hot broth with cold noodles – in fact the latter just supplied the udon on the side. Rachael and I ordered one of each, and to be honest, there wasn’t much to choose between them except the additional options offered by the cold noodles in the side.

A variety of oriental mushrooms added to the earthy flavours, though according to Time Out the toppings you’ll find vary by visit. We added the poached egg (as advised) which added protein and another subtle flavour addition.

It felt pretty difficult to know where to place this dish. To be clear, the flavours and textures made for an impressive, delicious dish that genuinely made me reassess how good a bowl of noodle soup could be. I just wasn’t convinced that the dish itself would have me rushing back to order it again. It certainly made me want to return and try everything else on the menu! A better advert for the restaurant than a dish you might find yourself dreaming about. As Rachael put it, where Burger and Lobster was pure entertainment, this was pure art. I suspect entertainment is ultimately more fun to eat.

(*take a spot of walnut-miso paste on the edge of your spoon, hold in the water for a couple of seconds until cloudy, pile on a topping and savour.)

15/100 of the best dishes in London

Sea Bass Ceviche at Ceviche

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Our first big disappointment of the Time Out Top 100 list – not because of the food in the restaurant but because Time Out failed to give a sufficiently specific name to easily identify the relevant dish. Why they couldn’t use the name in the menu was beyond us, but the inclusion of a mention of red onion allowed us to identify the Don Ceviche as our target.

“A taste subtle, spicy, sour and umami all at once”

The size of the chunks was essential. Rather than a transient, thin texture, this ceviche offered real bite. Eating it was a similar tangible experience as pickled herring, but with a taste subtle, spicy, sour and umami all at once.

Sweet, crisp fried carrot thins were matched with citrus, starchy centimetre cubed carrot chunks – were these steamed or ceviche themselves? I couldn’t tell. Add to this the sharpness of thin strips of red onion and you get a dish with great, complementary flavours, textures and mouth-feel. Oh, and it was delicious.

25/100 best dishes in London.

Lobster Roll at Burger and Lobster

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Wow! Perfection! I genuinely cannot fault this dish. In fact, if anything, the complaint to be made against this restaurant is that it should ditch the flawed ‘Burger and Lobster’ craziness, rename to ‘Lobster Roll’ and be done with it! Oh, and move to a food van, because, frankly, this is blissfully simple, naughty fare, and could easily be sold out of a hatch at a festival.

Where to begin? Well, obviously lobster is delicious, we all know that. But it’s not without its issues.

Firstly, lobster is fiddly. I’m one of those people who fears having a meal of diminishing returns, where you have a delicious mouthful, but find yourself scraping around in claws and tendrils with less and less joy rewarding you. This meal solves this by doing all the hard work for you, and providing all the meat with none of the implements. And there wasn’t a mislaid shard of shell in sight.

“The result was crispy, but melting, delicate but flavoursome, subtle but with real wow-factor. It’s possible this is the perfect sandwich”

Secondly, lobster is just too damned delicately flavoured. Pair it with anything with more taste than soggy cardboard and it can be overpowered. But here they match it with a sourly-sweet toaster brioche roll, fluffy Japanese mayonnaise, and, well, nothing else. It’s paired with chips (or rather, fries), and a small Caesar salad, but let’s be honest, neither of these are what the queues are lining up for.

Thirdly, lobster is expensive. Okay, so I’m more of a seven-to-fourteen-pounds-per-main kinda guy. Well, actually, more seven-to-ten-pounds, but who’s counting? So I could easily have blushed at the £20 price tag attached to this (and the burger, and the simply-steamed lobster), in a way that the clientèle who I shan’t say anything about because, er, I was one of them yesterday, presumably wouldn’t. But along with the fries and salad this was a generous meal, and one that filled me up – so in fact I’d say it was pretty good value, and way above, say, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, where you’d pay the same for a similar amount of food.

The result was crispy, but melting, delicate but flavoursome, subtle but with real wow-factor. I pity the fools who’d asked for the burger (though I love a burger) or the lobster (though I love straight-up lobster), but will have to go back with others to order those so I can have a taste. It’s possible this is the perfect sandwich.

Cocktails, at £9.50 were strong and delicious, but £9.50. Service at the table was super-smiley, but sadly a little frosty before we were seated.

The only (small) criticism I’d level was that the desserts were a real let-down – disappointingly served in cardboard pots from the fridge. Chocolate brownie mousse was passable chocolate mousse on top of passable chocolate brownie served too cold to really taste, and I doubt it would have been especially thrilling even if it had been at a more appropriate olfactory temperature. Desserts, rightly, aren’t where the fireworks are supposed to be in the restaurant, and it would probably be a shame if they stole the thunder. In fact, I reckon they should just not bother with puds at all.

I’ll definitely be back. Potentially often.

10/100 of the best dishes in London.

Custard Doughnut at St John Bakery

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It’s a bit of a trek to St John Bakery, whichever direction you’re approaching from. It’s perhaps a surprise, therefore, to find a hole-in-the-wall outlet under the arches serving only around a dozen baked goods which sees patrons flocking from across (south) London.

“Ultimately, how good can doughnuts be?”

The dozen products are loaves, Eccles cakes, and jam and custard doughnuts. Our mission: the custard doughnut.

In short: I enjoyed it. It was fluffy and light, and the custard was more whipped cream than a traditional doughnut sludgey custard, and the whole affair didn’t leave me with the greasy, heavy feeling you often end up with after your standard doughnut.

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Ultimately, though, I’d have to agree with Tom’s feeling – it was, in the end, just a doughnut, and how good can doughnuts be?

Nice, but nothing to write home about.

85/100 best dishes in London