Saturday, September 02nd , 2006
I finally made it to Sumosan this week. Just off Piccadilly, this is yet another up-market, somewhat Japanese restaurant in the style of Zuma and Nobu. London seems to have an inexhaustible appetite for places of this style at present, and the fairly large premises were busy even on a Tuesday night in August. It is very smart, aiming at the well heeled crowd that hang out around St James these days. All the hedge funds and venture capitalists in London seem to be slowly migrating west, occupying Piccadilly, St James and Mayfair rather than the City. Even the behemoth venture capital firm 3i moved to Victoria recently, so the area has had a significant injection of high-earners over the last few years. The food itself at Sumosan was generally capable, though with some ups and downs. A simple dish of assorted wild mushrooms cooked with soy sauce was excellent, as was rice with eel, yet there were also slips. What was claimed to be blue fin tuna turned up as sashimi so utterly cold from over-refrigeration that it was hard to tell what it was. We actually left this starter aside to the end of the meal to warm up, and even when we finished every other dish it was still too cold to eat properly. This is an inexcusable slip for a place that presumably should pride itself on its sashimi and sushi. Soft shell crab was nicely made here, avoiding any greasiness, and overall the food was around 3/10 level (just). The problem is that at £75 a head with a cheap bottle of wine between three and no desserts you just have to ask the question: why not just go to Zuma (pictured), which is only just down the road?
I feel obliged to try new restaurants in my local area, yet as we all know most restaurants are just bad or greedy or both, so this act of community work on my part usually ends in frustration or outright fury on my part. It was therefore with a heavy heart that I steeled myself to visit Oottupura, a newish Keralan restaurant on King Street, near Ravenscourt Park. There is a whole string of Indian restaurants in King Street, and they are almost all dismal, so my hopes were not high. But what was this? Mysore bonda with fluffy texture, light batter and nicely spiced filling. This was followed by a good dosa and an even rare thing, a capable uttapam, the Indian pizza made from rice flour, here topped with tomatoes and chillies. Even the paratha had good texture and not a hint of the oiliness that so often afflicts the breed. Even better, the prices were extremely fair: starters were around £2.50, and even with several beers we didn’t spend £30 between two. This place seems to have been overlooked by the London reviewers, who have been plugging instead the disappointing Indian Zing and the mediocre Sagar opposite as the stars of King Street. Yet to me Ootapura was a clear 2/10 overall, higher in patches, and much better than anything else nearby (I would say that Agni at 1/10 as the best in King Street up until this discovery). Ootapura should try a bit of PR, since far less deserving places are getting more attention. As a bonus, for me it is always nice to find somewhere good within walking distance.