London’s new Mayha restaurant has just 11 seats and serves seasonal multi-course Japanese cuisine (by way of Beirut) as chosen by the chef. Lotte Jeffs reports
If you’ve watched The Menu, partaking in a theatrical fine dining experience may not be on the top of your to-do list right now (spoiler alert: the meal in the film doesn’t end well). And anyway, the recent announcement that Noma is closing its doors could be a sign that such majorly hyped immersive dining has become as unpopular as toxic masculinity in the kitchen.
However, allow Globetrender to introduce you to a new concept in occasion dining instead – one that is about insanely good, masterfully prepared food delivered with simplicity, personalisation and authenticity.
Mayha recently opened on London’s buzzing Chiltern Street in January 2023, and it’s a trailblazer for this new trend in understated, highly personalised luxury dining. The Japanese “omakase” (meaning essential chef’s choice) restaurant was founded in Beirut, but has relocated to the English capital since an explosion devastated the city centre and port of Beirut in August 2020.
Chefs Jurek Wasio and Yuichi Nakaya have moved to London for the opening, and bring a flourish of drama to your evening as you dine at a curved wood counter that seats just ten people, watching the culinary geniuses at work.
Above is a custom-made light installation evoking Japanese cherry blossom (at least that was our interpretation), which was custom-crafted in Lebanon by Spockdesign, using traditional Japanese handmade methods. The restaurant also featrues hand-poured Blatt Chaya cement tiles that have been shipped from Lebanon.
Sake is poured freely and as is the omakase tradition, you are served the chef’s choice of dishes rather than being given a lengthy menu to pour over. But isn’t true luxury the elimination of indecision?
That’s not to say dietary requirements are unaccounted for. I had mentioned ahead of time I was vegetarian and received an incredible array of imaginative courses that included some of the best no-fish sushi I’ve ever had.
My menu comprised roasted carrots with aonori pesto, turnips simmered for two hours in vegetarian dashi, with sake walnut miso, black tofu hummus (one of my favourite dishes) and figs with goma joyu sauce.
The popping candy in the ‘sparkling’ pine ice cream with crispy momiji dessert brought some lightness to an otherwise quite seriously delivered multi-course meal.
My friend Ben enjoyed the full non-veggie menu which included (as well as a sushi course): Grilled quail with kumquat, Sake soy bluefin akami, mackerel with fig and sesame, venison steak with last forest fruits of the season.
He was particularly impressed with the Cornish scallops with caviar, which he called “a beautiful balanced dish, which, despite its elevated ingredients, we were unpretentiously invited to scoff down with a large spoon.”
He also said “The venison was delicate, well-seasoned and cooked to perfection; its gaminess happily paired with a native plum relish. But for me the highlight was the sushi. Five nigiri and one hand roll.
“I’ve travelled across Japan twice, including dawn meals at Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji fish market and the quality of the fish on display here could gladly compete. An honourable mention should also go to both the service and the sake, both of which would warrant a repeat visit alone”.
The evening was extremely well orchestrated as we were guided from cocktails in the gorgeously lit downstairs bar to our seats at the counter where each course coincided with the eclectic soundtrack as if the whole experience had been stage-managed to perfection. Rare spirits, fine wines and niche beers also accompany the food.There is nothing casual or haphazard about dining at Mayha, you are in good hands from the second you are welcomed in, through to the moment the highly attentive staff retrieve your coat at the end. But as the outside world continues to be chaotic and unpredictable, this level of calm and consideration from a restaurant was a welcome treat.
Lunch is served Tuesdays to Saturdays, from 12pm to 3pm. Seats are allocated for 75 minutes.