Let’s get the awkward stuff out of the way. This long-awaited sequel to Dinings W1 is not cheap. But if sushi is your desert island dinner, it’s worth it. It’s everything that was great about the first Dinings, only with a bit more sophistication.
First up: the setting. Compared to the charmingly poky Marylebone site (one teeny counter, two teeny basement rooms), this space, in a Grade I-listed building, is palatial: pale walls, double-height ceilings and gorgeous arched windows, dust-scattered sunlight streaming through them. There are tables, or a large, luxurious marble counter, where you can watch in awe as the chefs perform their micro-surgery.
Because the menu, again, dials things up a notch. More dishes. More smoke. More razzmatazz. It’s not pretentious – they only get the blowtorch out with good reason – but quietly ambitious. There’s subtle complexity and precision on every plate. It’s food you’ll want to savour.
The signature wagyu bun (£7.95) is bang-on. A juicy, intensely flavoured patty, a brown bun that’s soft and warm, the hit of heat, the crunch of baby gem. Sticking with the meat – cooked on the Josper for maximum nom – there were moreish izakaya-style chicken wings (£3 a pop, the best-value thing here) and a beautiful slab of charred Iberian pork loin with a sage and fermented miso sauce. Sounds incredible, right? It was.
The sushi, meanwhile, is ‘modern’. There was sashimi of fatty salmon belly with a microscopic ‘Nikkei salsa’; seared, delicately sweet nigiri of Santa Barbara shrimp (blowtorch time!) with the citrus-umami kick of yuzu soy; and a stunning, get-your-phone-out-and-get-snapping ‘double crab roll’. That’s right, Cornish spider crab and soft shell crab all packaged together into a mutant, yet addictive combo, all legs and legs. Deep-fried soft shell crab can be risky – it’s so often too greasy – but here it’s perfection.
Also great: shrimp tempura maki rolls, with crispy tempura flakes and a piquant sauce of creamy, spiced, pickled cod roe. Only the doll-sized tacos – another Marylebone staple – didn’t deliver, the delicate crab overwhelmed by the taco shell.
Has anything on the menu grown in size? Nope. That’s one thing that hasn’t changed. It’s all still frickin’ tiny. What’s great, though, is how unexpectedly relaxed this site is, in spite of the setting and prices. The charismatic hostess is a delight (she ought to be on the telly) while service staff are almost embarrassingly polite. On my visit it was full of local families and young, preppy finance types (mostly East Coast American), all shorts and polo shirts, washing down their MBAs with cold beers. Cheers guys. I envy you.