Critics' choice
Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
Jonathan Perugia / Time Out
Jonathan Perugia / Time Out

No-frills Japanese café specialising in hand-pulled udon noodles; there are no bookings and there's always a queue, so get there early.

NOTE: Koya is scheduled to close on May 31. The next-door Koya bar will remain open after this original branch ceases trading. To go to their listing, click here.

The Time Out Eating and Drinking Editors

The opening of Koya in 2010 marked a more youthful movement in the Japanese dining scene. With blond-wood sharing tables, white walls and a generally fresh-faced crowd of diners, the venue feels more like a friendly caff than a slick West End eaterie. The handmade udon noodles produced here are top notch, which explains why expectant diners often queue out of the door. Don’t be deterred: service is generally snappy, so you won’t have to wait too long. The well-priced menu features udon noodles served three ways: atsu-atsu (hot noodles in hot dashi broth), hiya-atsu (cold noodles with hot dipping broth) or hiya-hiya (cold noodles with cold dipping sauce). All are good, so choosing according to the weather tends to be the best method. Accompaniments range from traditional Japanese (tempura, perhaps) to the less conventional (smoked mackerel with greens). The vegetarian sweet miso, walnut and mushroom atsu-atsu is a regular crowd-pleaser. There are also donburi dishes and a specials board that includes the likes of okara (the ground bean protein left over from making soya milk) or cime di rapa croquettes slathered in earthy ginger and shiitake mushroom sauce. A small drinks list encompasses Japanese beer, saké and shochu.


Venue name: Koya
Address: 49 Frith Street
Opening hours: Lunch served noon-3pm daily. Dinner served 5.30-10.30pm Mon-Sat; 5.30-10pm Sun
Transport: Tube: Tottenham Court Road tube
Price: Main courses £6.90-£14.90

Average User Rating

2.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:7
  • 4 star:7
  • 3 star:6
  • 2 star:8
  • 1 star:14
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1 of 1 found helpful

Came here yesterday after seeing it in the Top 100 cheap eats. I can safely say that this most definitely is not a cheap eat. The price of a bowl of udon is around £9-12, and the portions are ridiculously small. I'd say after the bowl of udon I was about 20% full. Add on the £6-9 sides (each) and a drink each (£3.30 for a can of oolong tea?!), and a meal for two will come out at around £50 (not including 12.5% service charge). Even then you will not be full up! The food itself is not bad, however the pork belly that we ordered had 3 pieces only, one of which was pure fat, and I was expected to pay £6.90 for that? Cannot see why there were queues for this place, will never come back again. There are many better Japanese noodle restaurants in the vicinity for similar prices but much larger portions that are filling. Would give 0 stars if the website allowed me to!


Great food and polite friendly staff- not the cheapest of eat's but I would still  come back again and again!

Michael A


Tried Kake udon which was really tasteless (literally udon in plain hot water). Not sure how this restaurant attracts customers...

jean F

after seeing this is on the top 10 best Japanese restaurant so I gave it a try, unfortunately Its terrible, I can say all food I had nothing really special as the price are quite high and really small portion, No service at all and they charge 12.5 % on the bill , I wouldn't come here again

Tang L

Food was good. Had bean curd udon and gyudon. Udon was good quality and gyudon was normal. Had a bit of wait for the special grilled chicken which did not turn out to be fantastic. Service charge was 12.5% direct inclusion. I would have paid about 5% as waitress were friendly but food preparation was slow. Not a place you wanna be if you are pressed for time to catch a show for example. Good value nonetheless for a try.

Natasha V

Terrible experience in all ways !  Queue was 20 minutes, they didn't take our order until we asked to be served which was after about another 20 minutes, expensive I can do if it's good but this was bland and tiny portions.  Service was included in the bill, which took ages to pay, and they COUNTED THE COINS OUT ON THE TABLE.  almost took back my service charge.  Worst restaurant experience ever. 


Good food, but pricy, courteous staffs. A bit cramp during rush hours. Needs to have good amount of free time - to wait for food.


Staff were unfriendly and waited until we ordered our drinks to tell us that all the meat dishes were sold out. They were not at all apologetic. Limited choices available as a result, and personally I found it bland.


Overpriced, not good service. they should pay attention to all customers. Taking order after sitting, serving food, bringing bill after call, everythings so slow. i'd be persuaded if everything was more than 30% off. Noodle was very good. i'd say i never go back but unfortunately theres few places to have authentic quality of japanese udon in london. If you can afford and wanna go there, i recommend you to avoid peak time. Review from japanese foodie


Decided to give it a try as TimeOut gave it 4 stars. Disappointed by the service, it was a cold and aloof. I do not understand Japanese at all, would have helped a lot if the waitress did not insist on using the Japanese names when I ordered. Food was ok, very expensive/small portions, even for central London pricing. Would I go back again? maybe not, better places for authentic Japanese noodles.


I went a few months ago, generally very disappointing. We got tempora which was dripping with grease, when I complained I was informed this was the traditional way. I wouldn't' hurry back.


Soba noodles here are great, but the queues are a bit much to brave on Friday/Saturday nights.


Oh how the mighty have fallen. When Koya first opened in 2010, the intense flavour of its signature "buta miso" (pork miso) udon sent me back to the little alleyways of Kyoto, where udon was freshly made in the back of a 100 year old restaurant. Over the last three years, I've wandered back to my old haunt for my monthly fix. Now three years on, I find myself at odds with my better judgement to pay an exorbitant £9.90 for a bowl of noodles three quarters the size it was back in 2010. The udon is still as springy and flavourful as befitting the best udon shop in London, but the broth and the shop seem to have lost some of its depth as profits seem to be the order of the day. PS: After all these years, disappointingly, I still have not found anything I found remotely delicious off the "Specials" board. Please do revamp your menu Koya! I honestly do want to come back to my once favourite udon shop.


One of the best soup you can find in the city centre, shame for the queue. Amazing food


bland and overpriced. bland and expensive in fact. ignore the queue. seriously.

Nga Pham

I came Soho few weeks ago, finding a restaurant for dinner. I saw a long queue at this restaurant, we were hungry we couldn't wait, but I took note its name on my phone. Checking on internet and was pleased to see here 5 star rating + cheapest price. I went last week, waiting 15' outside, the shop is small and no spaces for waiting inside. Udon, good quality I can tell, soup is nice. However it is expensive than I expect when seeing review 1/4 for price. Must be 3/4 I'm afraid. Service charge is added on the bill (12.5%). Nice Japanese restaurant to try but not cheap as TimeOut said.


Hello TimeOut people, have you never eaten a bowl of authentic Japanese Udon or Donburi? If I see your rating, I expect at least noodles are homemade and soup has the hint of taste. I am an Udon-lover and have been in Japan xx times. I went there yesterday because of your rating but it was a big disappointment!! Bland and overpriced food. I never would recommend and go back. This restaurant actually deserves zero star!

Gregory Mortimer

I went there today and was disappointed because I was expecting much more from a place that got five stars from TimeOut. We waited about 25 minutes outside in the cold hoping it will be a great experience. We were greeted with a warning that the credit card machine is not working and cash only is accepted. The service was slow without any apologies. Our mains arrived unsynchronised so we had to wait again. The portion size is smallish and not very filling plus no desserts are available. It is true that this place feels authentic but overall there was too much pain involved with this experience.


Went Koya with the family due to the the review ranking. I had to say that we were disappointed because the noddle was not as good and very overpriced. The small dishes are really SMALL...There are a lot of many places in London that serve better and cheaper Japanese food. I could not understand how "Time-Out London" made the review of this restaurant? I might not use Time-Out for finding a restaurant next time?


Not somewhere I'd come back to. The posters who say Koya is overpriced for what you get are right. The "small plates" are particularly poor value for money: £2.30 for pickled plums (3 per portion), £2.90 for homemade pickles (six slices of pickled beetroot) and half a dozen pieces of greasy undercooked vegetables will set you back an eyewatering £8.60. The Duck & Vegetable Hot Pot was competently done and slightly better value for money, but over £14 for a bowl of soup and a duck breast is scarcely budget eats. Drinks are priced as you'd expect anywhere else in Soho (around £5 for a 330ml beer, £7 for a small glass of non-house wine). The final gotcha is a "discretionary" service charge of 10% (mentioned in tiny writing at the bottom of the menu) added to the final bill. £50 for a few small plates, a shared bowl of soup noodles and a couple of drinks is hardly budget - even for central London. If you're tempted to hang around outside in all weathers for average food at inflated prices - Koya's the place for you. For everyone else, there's better value to be found over the road in Chinatown.

Marie Bennett

Overpriced and overhyped, plus tiny portions. Not a place I'd go back to. The udon noodles with walnut miso looked like and tasted of dishwater. Bland, bland, bland. The homemade pickles were hard and chewy cabbage that tasted of nothing but brine. If you want flavourful and authentic noodles, go to Shoryo ramen instead. OK, so it is ramen, not udon, but infinitely better than Koya.


I must be missing something as I simply cannot understand the great reviews! My friend was one minute behind me and I went in to get a table and I was told to stand outside (it is absolutely freezing). When they did let us in we were shown to a table sharing with another couple - totally fine if you are going for a cheap bowl of noodles but it was £50 for us both and my friend's beer was £7.30!!! My pork miso was basically miso soup with some pork mince ontop and his chicken hot pot had a couple of nasty bits of chicken floating in it - for nearly £14. Sorry but tasteless, expensive food and expensive booze! If the bill had been £25 I would have been happy - a price to reflect basic and fast food - if you charge the best part of £15 for a main course I expect some quality!


there is a reason for the painfully slow queue. it amazing. everything here is delicious. i was surprised to hardly see any japanese chefs. thats not a complaint tho - very much a compliment. ive been to japan twice and would say its pretty authentic with a fusion twist. try and go early before 6.30 (opens for evening service at 5.30) if you dont want to wait 20-30 mins fo seats. skate chips special was delish! get the hot broth udon if your a slow eater like me. please get a slightly bigger space guys !


The food was tasty but it is not cheap at all the portions for the noodle and soup are adequate but there is so little of everything else in the dish it's almost a joke. Totally not worth lining up for. I don't recommend going.

Elliott Killick

I had the duck udon - hot noodles in hot broth and I was totally blown away. The duck was perfect - with what appeared to be some sort of quasi-battered coating and the noodles were excellent - difficult to eat, but great nonetheless. Personally, the prices are quite high, but the udon do tend to fill you up, at least in my opinion, because you have to drink so much delicious broth with them as well. For me, it was good value for money. 11 quid for one of the best - and most filling - Japanese meals I've ever had? Deal.

Ernesto Chao

Very overpriced for what they serve there. It is not cheap, nor value for money. The noodles are good but the soup base is a big let down. I'd much rather avoid the long queues and bad service and go to 'Nam' which is just a block away and serve cheap and tasty noodles...

Danni D

I'm sorry but why does everyone keep saying this place is a cheap eat. We had the prawn tempura noodles, as nice as the noodles and prawn was - there was only one prawn! For £10! We ended up ordering a few small plates to fill us up and by the time the bill came we realised we had spent about £26 per head. Contrast this to some set lunch menus you can get for £25 / £35 for 3 courses and coffee etc I'm not so sure Koya counts as good value for money. Praise for food is richly deserved though. Everything we tried we liked.


We have been a big fan of Koya for sometime, however recently they have started to increase the prices and the food is starting to slip in quality. The prawn and vegetable tempura was fantastic the vegetables are still brilliant, but they have now covered the prawn in what I can only state is fish and chip batter, very thick and then rolled it in the old crunchy outside batter that was the original only layer before hand. A real disappointment, guess they think it will make the prawn look bigger. But ruins the dish


I can happily recommend Koya having visited repeatedly and found the quality of food and ingredients universally high. It's without a shadow of a doubt the best udon I've had in London and good contender outside of Japan. It's reasonably priced bearing in mind the location and genuinely Japanese, down to the queuing policy (sadly). One of the seven Japanese restaurants I return to regularly.


Went for dinner with a friend - we had sea weed and beet root as starters (boring and overpriced) followed by cold udon with duck or pork/miso - mediocre and small portions certainly overpriced compared to other asian restaurants in soho. not sure how they managed to get 5 stars in the time out review...i was certainly not impressed!


The room is light, airy and spacious. Seating is comfy and not cramped, unlike many Asian eateries. But most of all, the udon noodles are spectacular! I had the tenzaru zen hiya-hiya udon (cold noodles with dipping sauce, vegetable tempura) and it was wonderful. Portions do look small for the price but I was satiated and thought it perfect for lunch, as did the three burly boys with me!


Simply the best udon I have ever had - pricey - but leagues ahead of anywhere in taste. I'll go back - if they drop the prices I'd go back even more!!


Epilogue:When Ifirst arrived at the restaurant I have clearly asked the Japanese waitress how many of us are and can we wait outside. she nodded the head and the waiting began.Just because they don't have simple number cards for people waiting outside even when its pouring down for an hour, Does not mean our family have to go all the way back to the que! Soaking wet like a mice. (We were just hiding under the roof across the street where we could see the front, we had no umbrellas). *Lack of customer service.----> This was my first visit. I was still waiting outside for the to tell us when to come in.Never had a response and suddenly the waitress asked who is the next group.My face just got froze! She did not understand a word what I have said from the first place.Staff even told whether to leave or go back to the end of the que! when I came back and explained the whole situation(So embarrased). Explained the whole situation to the Owner(?)Manager(?) and his reluctant attitude was so disappointing. What should I expect, he has a long que of customers still waiting prouldly in front of his store.. Food-----> Japanese standard (Nothing more or less). I can say myself have tried good thousands of Udons in my life(I am 30 years old), But I really cannot understand why this place is so overrated! Really makes me laugh when I read the other reviews. The noodle, soup and toppings are just standard rated taste which you can easily find in typical 'udon stand' next to any Japanese rail station. If you do not believe me please try this place with your Japanese friend. Price: 38% is just a bubble of the whole dining experience at this place. One Udon and beef Gyudon was almost 30 quid with two drinks(Coke and tea). I really do not know how long this place will last