When one dreams of the perfect culinary pairing, the world-adored nations of Japan and Italy, each with their rich history and strong sense of individual culture, are not necessarily two that jump out as happy bed partners. Perhaps more unusual still, on the one hand we have Italian business mogul Flavio Briatore, conjuror of cool hangouts Cipriani and Twiga in Monte-Carlo, and on the other, restaurateur Janina Wolkow, whose original Mayfair Japanese restaurant Sumosan was for many years the last word in contemporary Japanese excellence. What we have here is a remarkably thoughtful double-menu: beautiful age-old Italian recipes such as homemade paccheri with lobster, and strozzapreti with lamb ragout, reinvented and with huge helpings of flavour and soul. And for the Japanese department, with its own superstar chef, naturally, is an award-worthy creation of sensationally fresh raw fish: a whole page on the menu dedicated to sushi and sashimi, all scrumptiously creamy-smooth in texture and flavoursome. Sumosan Twiga, fast garnering a reputation for seriously delicious fare, is housed in a wide, modernist building at 156 Sloane Street, just a pleasant stroll from Harvey Nichols. Upon entering, we’re greeted by a friendly host, sitting neatly behind a booth, who helps us into the lift, making our way up to the second floor. The first floor is open in the evenings for dinner, the spacious basement for private events and at the weekend as a nightclub. Our corner table, with its elegant-patterned and neatly upholstered banquette, was both comfortable and well-placed to watch Chelsea’s elite quaff chilled prosecco and cocktails whilst chomping away happily on homemade gnocchi with tomato sauce, veal tonnato, wasabi prawns with mango and golden passion fruit salsa. A bright, sophisticated dining room is filled with impeccably laid tables and colourful coffee-table tomes depicting Italy’s culinary hotspots, encased in a sleek floor-to-ceiling bookshelf.
During our Thursday afternoon visit in late November, Wolkow, with her glossy dark hair and warm energy, breezed through the second floor dining room, kissing guests and generally making everyone feel welcome. Her colleague, serial mega-charmer/general manager, Federico Bonetti, has been poached from celebrity-magnet C London on Davies Street and waves his charismatic wand about the place, somehow creating a sort of ‘I must return immediately’ feel amongst everyone who visits. Indeed, having raved about the place to everyone who would listen (and some that wouldn’t), I treated my Neapolitan partner and mother-in-law (76) to a lunch just a week later, both of whom absolutely got it, and the restaurant is now being recommended amongst the more serious foodies of downtown Naples. Gasps, lip-licking and giggles were all to be heard during our visit: surely the sign of a superstar restaurant?
NINE is a private concierge club, providing tailored travel and lifestyle solutions to individuals and families globally.