Why Sumosan Twiga is the hottest table in town
3rd December 2016
About £50/head for three dishes and a bottle of sake, but easy to spend £100/head.
Sumosan was an NRI and Emirati favourite, serving Japanese food a hop, skip and a jump from Brown's Hotel on Albermarle Street. You couldn't move for Hermes-toting, turbaned ladies in peacock colours and Huda makeup in summer. Where else could Sumosan possibly go other than Knightsbridge, the heartlands of their most loyal disciples?
The new premises has a club downstairs, a restaurant on the first floor and a lounge-bar on the second floor which is essentially a gilded holding pen for hungry animals. It's a ton of fun, but we nearly got conned with the sake. Watch out of their sommelier - more on that later.
A DJ spins tracks all night from his little booth by the bar. We visited in early December, just after Sumosan Twiga opened. Janina Wolkow started a dance party at 11.30pm to Punjabi MC, a track that has become more white than brown. I have waited weeks to confirm that this is now a weekend tradition. London, we needed a real dinner PARTY venue and now it's here. Get your dancing shoes on and go, because this is buzziest restaurant in London town.
Not only that but it's the best people-watching post in the city. We had a 9pm table, bridging the first and second seatings. My dinner buddy identified an item of Zara clothing on almost every single diner during the first half hour of our meal. "I have that" UA said, pointing discreetly at a lady in velvet trousers "and that. And I saw that. They had in summer."
My what a transformation at 10.30pm! In came the Bottomless Black Card Brigade, in Tribute heels and baby pink furs. A raucous table of ten Indians, the ladies in cocktail dresses, livened things up substantially with several rounds of cheersing and volleys of laughter. We sat a little taller to better observe, then caught sight of a vampire, desperately pale with wild hair, propped up by several of Karachi's living members of society.
On my way up to the bathrooms I passed a tour group, consisting of the manager and caramel-skinned man in his late thirties, sporting foundation, dyed-silver hair and a thin, white fur sweater. We were thrilled when he later took a seat at a table nearby, enabling easy gawping at His Stylishness. The two European ladies next to us rocked up in demure black pants. A commodity fund trader's bonus-worth of diamonds were casually spread across their ears, wrists and watches.
Most entertaining was a table of make-up free Russian ladies and their partners in the middle of the room. We shared a carousel of emotions with Silent Sad Face, whose eyes were red from a pre-dinner sob fest, and demeanour most volcanic. She spoke to no one, slouching and smouldering for the first two hours. At 11pm her boyfriend took notice of her, and they spent the rest of the evening smooching as if nothing had happened.
All of this was an extremely good backdrop for a girly chat about winter shorts (satin or velvet?), Aquavit (unmitigated deliciousness) and the hunt for a good spooner to watch The Crown with (ongoing). We recapped on recent exploits while waiting for our food.
They've taken a pruned version of their Japanese menu and Exec Chef Bubker Belkhit with them. RIP duck roll, kaiso salad, and Philadelphia roll. We now have an additional, Italian menu, courtesy of Twiga, ex-Renault F1 manager Flavio Briatore's club-restaurant.
Friends UA and NCR fell in love with Twiga in Tuscany. It was later moved to Monaco, reinvented as a restaurant-come-nightclub with Sumosan catering. So clearly, the speciality is raving, not rigatoni. What on earth did they add the Italian menu for? Dieticians will have a nervous breakdown. Raw fish followed by the blubbering volcano of cream that is burrata? Regardless, reports suggest the Italian kitchen is not pulling its weight. Stick to the Japanese menu.
Salmon and furikake spices rice pizza, with cucumber, chilli-garlic salsa was a calculating formulation that had us purring like sunbathing kittens.
The T&T roll (tuna and truffle) is unchanged, delicious, fragrant and slightly acidic.
Having paccheri on the menu is a subtle indication that there might be some decent pasta-making skills in the kitchen. We put them to the test, ordering lobster pasta. We got undercooked (not al dente) paccheri. Slicing a tube in half revealed a power-white interior encased in beige. The sauce was incroyable - tender, subtle and flavour-rich tomato. This is one time you don't want the ingredients to be locally sourced. It's a shame the pasta ruined it. We were too bloated to eat more after that.
There's an issue with the classic chocolate fondant, one of the best desserts in London. Maybe they bought a new oven when they moved. Ours was slightly overcooked. Friends who visited this weekend said it simply wasn't available due to quality issues.
About the sake. We asked for the sommelier, and after a fifteen minute wait rendered our choice from the menu. A further twenty minutes later, a waiter poured out some sake from a 3/4s empty bottle, and vanished off with it.
Again, a 3/4s empty bottle.
We asked to be shown the bottle. The first waiter summoned a second waiter. We repeated. The sommelier finally arrived with a full bottle. "We were sold out of the size you ordered" he said. "I'm gonna give you two of these smaller ones instead".
That's all well and good, but what's the story with the virtually-empty bottle you just served us?
"That's not your sake" he said. "They shouldn't have poured it". He took it away and got us our order.
Unsure of what to make of this, we simmered down. That is, until the bill arrived, and we were charged for double the amount of sake we had ordered and consumed. Be sure to check your bill properly.
The restaurant feels like a fashion exec's Parisien pied-a-terre, with gold-framed Geisha prints layered over mirrored walls, fashion-focussed coffee table books, purple orchids, dove-grey banquets with white piping. Fringed, houndstooth cushions are so covetable. Keeping with the fall-2016 colour pallette, green is their accent colour, adding weight through the curtains in the restaurant, and lightening the mood with lime notes upstairs in the bathrooms. They skimped on the floors, using what may be fake wenge rather than stone.
We foresee difficulty in getting reservations here, on account of the fun factor but possibly not in the club downstairs. Forward-thinking buddy DV tried to book a table for eight in the club. She was quoted £15,000 the week before launch. They called her back with an offer of £3000 after they opened. We're waiting to see how low they will go.