‘So, which is the best restaurant in London?’ is an unanswerable question. I doubt anyone has eaten in every restaurant, for one thing. For another, tastes ebb and flow. One minute the bandwagon is carting ceviche, then pulled pork, eel fed duck, and lemongrass served on a bed of candied orange peel. Each time it changes, a different restaurant is the new found star, while the others are shunned like a leper colony.
A better question would be, ‘what’s your favourite restaurant in London?’ It’s still not an easy one though. Aside from the fact that I don’t really know what I’m talking about, my tastes change depending on the time of day. Foie gras makes for an unappealing breakfast, while a kebab looks mightily tempting at 2.00am, and a McDonald’s breakfast is just thing after you’ve had more pints than sleep the night before.
At a certain time of the day – specifically between the hours of 5.30 and 6.30pm - Koya is in my top 5. At any other time, the queue for this small noodle bar on Frith Street, Soho, stretches to the ridiculous lengths of an iPhone launch. I’m not one of those ‘don’t queue on principle types’. I don’t queue because it’s dinner time and I’m hungry. I’ll just go somewhere else.
As well as a certain time slot, Koya is best be visited on a cold damp Autumnal day. Scarves tightened to eleven, brown wet leaves underfoot. It’s not like we’re short of those, hence the constant queue. They serve noodles in a broth, with various meat and vegetables floating in it. A sweet, salty nourishing dish that tests the dexterity of diners. Thick udon noodles easily slip from chopsticks, spoons, and mouths, dribbling down chins, and sending broth splashing on to the po-faced couple who share the same small, intimate table for four.
Koya also serve an interesting array of ever-changing sides. Last time, it was hay smoked venison. This time, slices of pickled carrot and turnip, tempura pumpkin with a honey cured egg yolk and chilli salt. The pickles, firm, smooth to the touch, with a delicious bitter tang. The pumpkin, wrapped in its crisp blanket, hotter than the sun. Chopped, cooled, and dipped in the warm glowing egg, with a dusting of the spiced salt. Fantastic.
So, what’s my favourite London restaurant between 5.30 and 6.30pm on a cold September Monday evening? Koya. Next question…