So Friday night has arrived and I’m off to Den Udon Kings Cross, for an evening of thick white flour noodles, with a few extras I hope. I’ve heard it is going to be healthy. That’s okay… I can be unhealthy on the way there and unhealthy on the way back, I may just survive the diet den.

Before heading to a new restaurant I like to do a bit of research (where it is, how to get there) but keep the intricate and exciting details of the menu and venue a surprise. I find it is best to let the restaurant staff’s expertise guide me though the menu, and I was particularly intrigued about the Japanese cuisine on offer here.

On arriving we went past the converted pub for 15 yards, before scrambling back and running in from the rain. I instantly liked the fact that they had transformed an unused venue, as there are many pubs in London that are being knocked down or turned into flats, but that is another gripe for another day, and into the converted pub we went.

We were seated on one of the simple benches with other guests and straight away a cocktail recommended by our waitress was handed to us. A Ginger Vodka delight which was simple and great. To start I had the Red Wine Stewed Pork Belly. This was my favourite of everything we tried, small but not too small, delicious cuts in a flavoursome marinade that were ample for a starter.

Onto main’s but not before another cocktail. It is important here to work through the cocktail menu as well as the food menu. The Bloody Den was fantastic, a Japanese inspired Bloody Mary curated by the delightful Director, Cristoforo Santini. I highly recommend this drink, perfect for a lunchtime refresher or a Friday evening kick-starter. For my main, I chose Prawn and Vegetable Tempura. I love prawns, but the sticky rice had little flavour. Japanese cuisine prides itself on its healthy nature, however a fresh sauce would have made this a much more complete dish.

Our waitress for the evening was very helpful and the Director Mr. Santini could not have done enough for every ‘bencher in the pub’. He worked the room and was a likeable restaurant director who showed passion for his restaurant.

I would always like a table separate from other Friday diners and my main course was lacking in flavour for me. That said Den will do very well, with a team always happy to share insight into the dishes and a Director with such a high level of enthusiasm. My starter and the drinks were superb, so take my advice and have an evening of Japanese health in Kings Cross. Just make sure you remember to stop off for chocolate on the way home!

More information about Den here:

Written by a Thoroughly Modern Male, Nick Gray.

Koya, Soho

I didn’t even see the restaurant sign, the queue alone told me I was in the right place. Koya is another of Soho’s uber-popular foodie destinations. The little eatery lives on Frith Street, opposite Ceviche (Peruvian delights), and a few metres from Barrafina (tapas heaven). So if you can’t be bothered with the queue there are other options nearby, though the likelihood is… they’ll be just as busy. When a friend and I turned up on a Wednesday night, the waiting didn’t take too long, and luckily we had some soap opera style entertainment from the couple behind us in the queue.

Koya opened in 2010, offering a casual and hip Japanese eating experience to Londoners. Noodles are homemade, kneaded by foot in the traditional Japanese fashion and served up hot or cold in an array of broths with a selection of toppings. The menu is pretty easy to grasp though we still struggled to choose. Udon noodles are served three ways: Atsu-Atsu (hot udon in hot broth), Hiya-Atsu (cold udon with hot broth) or Hiya-Hiya (cold noodles with cold dipping sauce).

We were both won over by the Kamo duck Atsu-Atsu, which arrived steaming minutes later… service here is speedy and efficient. The big hot bowls of goodness can be tricky to eat, splashing about as you slurp the noodles, but there is no doubt about it, this food makes for a very hearty and satisfying meal. The aromatic soup is soothing and delicious, thickened with chunky udon noodles, thin spring onions and meat – I loved the bite sized meatballs but found the slices of duck breast slightly too fatty. Looking back at the menu now I’m spotting lots of other tempting treats, Vegetable tempura and Donburi rice with beef and miso sounds wonderful too. To drink choose from traditional sake, shochu, Japanese beer or opt for a reasonably priced carafe of white wine, like we did.

Koya’s popularity shows no sign of slowing down, these simple authentic Japanese dishes continue to delight the hungry souls of Soho. I left feeling well fed, healthy but satisfied… all that for just £20.

More information here: