The Taku Mayfair team moves north
Mayfair to Hampstead might not be the most obvious route for a restaurant group’s expansion (you’d expect it to be the other way around) – but that’s what the team behind Taku Mayfair has done with INÉ.
The restaurant opened in Hampstead at the end of last year, bringing Japanese fine dining to the North London neighbourhood. Looks-wise, it’s very Japanese inside – extremely minimalist with lots of natural wood and booth seating behind an eight-seater omakase counter. Omakase is served at particular times throughout the day and is £100 for 15 courses, otherwise, there’s an a la carte and an INÉ special menu to choose from. Whichever route you go down, you’re getting a blend of the Edomae style showcased at the Michelin-starred Taku and more contemporary influences.
Head Chef Meng, who trained under Chef Patron Takuya Watanabe at Taku and has over two decades of experience as a master sushi chef, leads the kitchen at INÉ, and as you’d expect, the sushi here is top quality. The sashimi selection of tuna, trout and hamachi, the salmon avocado maki and the botan ebi nigiri are excellent but the tuna nigiri set with akami (lean), chutoro (medium fatty) and otoro (fatty) is exceptional – a must for any tuna fan.
The sushi and sashimi, on the a la carte menu at least, is very traditional but the kitchen isn’t afraid to deviate from the classics in other areas. There’s a vibrant green sauce slathered over hamachi carpaccio; lobster and scallops are battered, with a light tempura coating ensuring the delicate flavour of the shellfish isn’t overshadowed; and as well as chicken, octopus also gets the karaage treatment, arriving as crispy, but crucially not chewy, nuggets.
The staff say the wagyu katsu sando has become a customer favourite, and price tag aside, it’s easy to see why – the light crumb encases incredibly buttery beef, making for one very indulgent sarnie. The anko monaka dessert, a delicate wafer filled with bean paste, matcha cream and ice cream – basically a mini ice cream sandwich – is a great balancing act of temperatures and textures, and is the perfect bite to finish on.
INÉ brings something standout to Hampstead, combining that local neighbourhood feel with some proper luxury. And if you’re looking to up the ante this Valentine’s Day, the restaurant’s limited-edition Prestige Bento Box will do the trick.
16 Hampstead High Street, London NW3 1PX