Friday, 30 August 2013

Koya Bar, Frith Street

It's no secret that I turn into a squealing fan-girl whenever Koya is mentioned. It's probably up there to be one of my favourite restaurants in London. Their udon noodles revolutionised my hangovers; grease and filth sends me over the edge when I'm feeling delicate, so their cleansing broths, simple flavours and comforting slow-cooked eggs (onsen tamago) have helped me out of many a sticky situation. When not hungover - it happens - the Specials board is always an exciting surprise, dishes so lovely that I often sulk when they're only there for a day or two (I'm looking at you, udon fries). Judging by the queues, I'm not their only fan-girl.

So, the news that Mooli's next door had closed down and was then snapped up by Koya for another little place (Koya Bar) brought joy to my udon-craving heart. Scheduled to officially open on Monday 2nd September, I happened to walk past and spy people dining there. They opened a week early on the sly. 

The menu, surprisingly, was exactly the same as Koya. I looked through it once, turned it over, looked again - and then I spied some mackerel grilling above a flame. John, the owner, explained to me that actually Koya Bar will be serving that classic menu, but also breakfast. That grilling fish was part of a breakfast dish, and they kindly let me try it out. It was exactly what you'd want from a grilled piece of fish; smoky, firm, a little sweet, a little salty from the glaze, crisp skin. Lightly pickled pink ribbons and a pile of grated daikon refreshed the palate in between bites. 

A plate of tempura vegetables and a bowl of fried tofu and spring onion udon noodles (kizame on the menu) confirmed that all was well and running smoothly. 

I, of course, went back as soon as I could - their first breakfast service, in fact.

A selection of udon noodles are on offer (bravely, the curry option too) as well as some porridge dishes. It's not the usual with oats though - porridge made with rice, what we know as congee or 'juk' in Cantonese. I ordered the kedgeree; textured, thick rice porridge was flavoursome and generous with silky smoked haddock. On top nestled a slow-poached egg, whites wobbly and yolk runny. 

Decorated with fish skin crisps, a little dish of shaved bonito (used once already for the restaurant's dashi stock) mixed with sesame seeds are for scattering on top. It was, truly, a brilliant bowlful. 

We couldn't rightly go and miss out on the English breakfast udon - which was bacon and egg. This was also delicious; the bacon was cooked until floppy, not crisp, but the dashi broth took on its flavour well. It was a little hard to break the bacon slices up without being entirely covered in soup, but it was the cleanest, healthiest-feeling 'fry-up' I'd come across. 

I can't wait to go back to try the udon with raw egg and soy. Or the curry udon. Or the porridge with pickles. I'm even coming round to natto, those sticky fermented soy beans, which we were given just because I wanted to see my boyfriend squirm while trying it. 

So, while Koya Bar retains the classic menu with breakfast opening hours and a focus on sake and beer, I'm told that the original Koya will move in a different, more Specials-led direction. I can't wait to see what they come up with. 

Koya Bar
50 Frith Street,
London, W1D 4SQ

No Reservations 
Opens 8:30am for breakfast


Anthony said...

Joy, more Koya. That can only be a good thing.

What about coffee though? Do they make a decent cup at breakfast? Otherwise, it's just not breakfast.

Ed said...

In for breakfast next week. Can't wait.

meemalee said...

Haha, I make bacon and egg udon all the time (with snipped up streaky bacon) - I feel dead posh now ;)

Lizzie Mabbott said...

Anthony - no, they don't. When asked they said 'no - we can't do it properly so we don't do it at all'. Japanese tea and iced barley tea on offer though. I think coffee would be too overpowering for all those lovely flavours.

Ed - can I come? I really want to try the curry udon. Sorry, colleagues.

Meemalee - Soooooo ahead of the curve, you!

Helen said...

How brilliant. Darn the fact I will never be passing on a weekday and also the fact I am unlikely to ever be in town at that time on a weekend. DARN IT!!

Richard Elliot said...

I've been to Koya a couple of times and loved their clean broths. It hadn't occurred to me it would be perfect hangover food, but now you mention it I can see it working quite well!

J@Feasttotheworld said...

Oh I love Koya too.

Juk for breakfast sounds perfect. When I was yong, I used to break an egg straight into the bowl of piping hot congee and let the residing heat slowly poached the egg for a minute or so before stirring it and that was the best thing ever. A rich, eggy juk.

I nee to get to the Koya bar pronto!

Day Dream Nation said...

Haha....Natto. Now that reminds me! I pretty much eat everything but the first time I ate natto on sushi in Hong Kong I had to make myself swallow it. It just looks and feels like snot!!! Disgusting!!!

Tony said...

Looks like a great breakfast selection on offer.

Makes me wonder though - are there any places that do century egg & lean pork congee (pei dan sau yuk jook) for breakfast? Do any places in Chinatown open this early?

English breakfast udon - that made me laugh.

@Anthony - there's alway Milk Bar around the corner on Bateman Street

Lizzie Mabbott said...

Helen - do a dash before work! Pull a sickie!

Richard - yes! So comforting.

Daydream - It really does take some getting used to, but I'm getting there!

Tony - Far East on Gerrard Street does, but I don't think they open until 9ish. said...

I've never done the whole Koya thing but think the time has definitely come - do you recommend trying the bar or restaurant first? said...

I've never done the whole Koya thing but think the time has definitely come - do you recommend trying the bar or restaurant first?

London Notebook said...

I've never been to Koya. But I'm looking for somewhere central to eat tomorrow... I wonder if I'll need to book...?

Lizzie Mabbott said...

Samphire - the bar will be the more traditional, udon noodle specific one to visit. They're both great though. I would recommend cold udon in hot broth as you get both textures of the cold noodle and then the softer version once dipped in the broth.

Lizzie Mabbott said...

London notebook - there are no bookings I'm afraid, walk in only. Definitely worth chancing it though.

Sandra said...

I took my husband for an anniversary breakfast yesterday, and loved it. I absolutely adore Koya, so it wasn't too surprising! The Kedgeree was just wonderful. I got introduced to natto in Japan last year, and I must be one of the few who absolutely loves it, so I was very pleased to see it on the menu. Will make any excuse to be in Soho in the morning from now on!

Shasha said...

Hi, I will definitely go check this out...I have a question on Orienta; breakfasts...are there any other places that do them at all? I'm looking for porridge, won ton...only in Chinatown or anywhere else I wonder... Thanks :)

Lizzie Mabbott said...

Sandra - good to hear! Glad you had a good time.

Shasha - Yes, Faar East in Chinatown does them, but not toll around 9:30 or so.

Lizzie Mabbott said...

London Notebook - sorry, no bookings.