Koya opened a couple of years ago and has slowly picked up a strong and loyal clientele off the back of its delicious and precisely cooked variety of small eats and its impressively good selection of udon noodle dishes. The shopfront and entrance is small and discreet, and the interior is lined with the day’s specials, while a small but functional dining room combines clean design with warmth. Servers zip in and out of the visible kitchen and are unfailingly polite and helpful.

So, the food. The restaurant is loved by foodies all over the city, as it embraced the global trend for noodle bars while actually focusing on the quality of its main product. To have done so when Japanese cuisine in the city was becoming synonymous with bankers’ expense accounts, Z-list celebrities and wannabes, and charging democratic prices at a time when the world was in recession only made it that much more adored. The noodles are stunning. Thick, voluptuous wheat noodles with perfect bite are one side of the coin, but the range of accompanying soups they come in are wonderful with deep, comforting flavours and perfectly cooked accompaniments. The basic pork broth is excellent; so too is the curry broth, and the mushroom broth is very good as well.

The small eats on the side are notably good; whether a salad of thin-sliced lotus roots and seaweed with a simple dressing or a single poached free-range egg in a marvellous broth, served as a shot to be downed in one, special care and attention is lavished upon each dish that justifies the price (at £5-8, they’re a little expensive for sides, but worth it). The tempura “fish and chips” has become a cult foodie favourite, and the slow cooked pork belly is as good as it sounds – rich, deep and deliciously tender. Though busy at peak times, it makes an excellent stop for lunch or dinner.

Opening times: Monday - Sunday: 12:00-15:00 & 17:30 - 22:30 (Sunday to 22:00)


49 Frith Street, Leicester-Square, W1D 4SG

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