Koya Bar

Restaurants, Japanese Soho
4 out of 5 stars
4 out of 5 stars
(18user reviews)
Porridge at Koya, Frith Street. (Okayu - porridge with pickles,
© Ben Rowe

This sibling to the original Koya doesn't stand in the shadow of its departed neighbour - it's asserted its own personality with Japanese breakfasts.

The original branch of Koya closed in the summer of 2015, leaving Koya Bar as the sole survivor of the twin operation. Evoking the more traditional feel of a Japanese udon-ya, the restaurant wouldn’t be out of place in Tokyo. A blond wood counter dominates the long narrow space – chefs on one side, diners on the other. With just 25 stools, Koya Bar may not be big, but it still feels spacious and airy.

Koya classics such as udon with mushrooms and walnut miso (kinoko) are available here, but unlike the original, breakfast is also served. Though you can get a standard Japanese morning meal – grilled fish, miso soup, rice and pickles, innovative bowls of udon and rice porridge are the major draw.

Placed before us by head chef Shuko Oda, a bowl of ‘English breakfast’ udon in earthy broth was topped with fried egg, bacon and shiitake mushrooms – not the easiest thing to eat with a pair of chopsticks. The rice porridge (okayu) and accompanying soft boiled egg, spring onion and sweet, salty marinated shiitake makes for a soothing bowl of East Asian comfort food.

With friendly staff and unusual dishes, Koya Bar offers a taste of Tokyo in London.

By: Celia Plender

Posted:

Venue name: Koya Bar
Contact:
Address: 50 Frith Street
London
W1D 4SQ
Opening hours: 8.30am-10.30pm Sun-Wed; 8.30am-11pm Thurs-Sat
Transport: Tube: Tottenham Court Road
Do you own this business?
Static map showing venue location

Average User Rating

3.7 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:4
  • 4 star:9
  • 3 star:2
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:2
LiveReviews|18
1 person listening
tastemaker

A much better experience here than I first did at the City branch. Even though the Soho branch doesn't take reservations, my brother and I managed to get seats quite quickly, as we were early for dinner and because we arrived together and were seated first. 

I ordered the same dish as I had before, the Tenzaru. I really liked it before because I thought the serving size for the udon is perfect and the tempura was well done. This time around, we had different vegetables (I suppose it's subject to availability and to the season) but still got a prawn tempura. It was still battered a little too much for my liking, but it tasted fresh and wasn't greasy. The dipping sauce was still a little bland but nothing a little spicy mix couldn't fix! 


We shared 2 other dishes from the daily specials menu. The first was Tofu, which was grilled and served in a sweet soy sauce gravy with freshly grated ginger and spring onions. Very fresh and authentic in taste! The second was Fried Mackerel. This was rather unique and done well! Very fish-y, as mackerel tends to be but it was battered lightly and cooked to perfection. It came with a small side salad, which was well dressed and helped balance the flavours. 


Our waitress who sat us and took our order was super friendly and nice. However, the chef himself seemed rather unfriendly. No smiles, had his phone out in front of the customers and using it in the kitchen, and wasn't friendly when we asked him a question about what vegetable we had in the tempura. Other than that, it was a much better experience than the City and I will definitely be coming back to this branch and only this branch. 


pretty nice ramen! not great in portion, but love the seating plan where seats surround the kitchen, cool idea, a great place for lunch with friends but not optimal for dinner as people sit next to each other all facing the kitchen can be difficult to chat while enjoying the food :)

Tastemaker

I ate here today for lunch. I was impressed with the amount of udon served and the thick texture as well as the very tasty walnut miso. But the broth with mushrooms was pretty bland. For £13 I thought this meal was quite overpriced.

The seating area is quite small and they don’t take rez so expect a queue.

tastemaker

The noodles here are really good - I love udon! The portion sizes are big and the broth is really flavoursome. I had the hot udon with hot broth, I had a taste of the cold noodles with cold broth which my friend got and it wasn't really for me; maybe I just don't get cold broth! 

The decor was really simple and casual - definitely recommend a visit.

tastemaker

We had the sake with umeshi plums, pickles, tempura vegetables, udon and mushrooms in dashi broth to die for. The food's so good but the queue's so long! Definitely worth the wait for amazing Japanese.

tastemaker

I'm a bit of a nutter for noodles and can never go past a bowl of udon that has that elusive chewy, springy quality that I first had in Japan - if that's what you're looking for too, go no further.


What we had:

  • Cold udon with beef shabu shabu beef, daikon radish and onsen tamago
  • a side of fried tofu with ginger and shredded spring onion

The noodles here are simply legit. They are nice and chewy and has a great springy quality with each bite. They keep it fairly simple here with the menu - but that's rather the beauty of it all. Don't be fooled by the bowls which look small but are deep and filling. The broth is full of flavour without being over powering and the cold udon is perfect in this heat we've been having of late - paired with a cold pint of Kirin, of course. The onsen tamago is a very runny poached egg and adds that extra luxuriousness to the dish; however I do believe they have soft boiled eggs as an option as well. The fried tofu with finely grated ginger and spring onion is similar to agedashi tofu without the sauce, and personally I would've liked it to be a bit crispier. If you're craving for a great bowl of udon, definitely head to Koya and try their duck udon or their famous breakfast udon for a very satisfying start to your day.


Tip: get in early so you can grab a seat and beat the queue as it is walk-in only.


Good For: quick meals, cheap and cheerful, catch up with friends, small groups.

tastemaker

After eating at Koya Bar for the first time last summer, it quickly became a firm favourite of mine. As someone who loves udon and has longed for a great udon place in London, this ticks all the boxes. Authentic, delicious, varied. You can have hot udon, cold udon, udon with dipping sauce, basically udon in all forms. So far, my favourite has been the Venison and Tofu "Ma-Po" Udon which was one of their specials (photo below), full of flavour. You won't be disappointed! Just be prepared for the queue which in itself tells you how great it must be!

Tastemaker

My friend took me here as I've never tasted a good ramen dish before (shocking!), she said she goes there with her partner at least once or twice a month, so I fully trusted her judgement. 
Unlike others that reviewed this place, we didn't queue up at all (maybe because we went for an early lunch? it was around 1pm) and we didn't wait long at all to be served.

We ordered the fried tofu and each got a different ramen dish (all vegan!)
Everything felt fresh and it was all delicious, a hearty filled with goodness soup.
I highly recommend it, and already managed to tell some close friends to go check it out.

tastemaker

I've only gone there a couple of times. The broth tasted legit and udon noodles are pretty good too! However, I think everything is overpriced. Perhaps I think it's a little unfair of me to compare since I just came back from Japan, but 13 pounds for a simple bowl of udon is a little steep. I don't understand the long queue either. Je ne sais quoi.


Didn't like it at all.. I loved Koya (the one which is closed now it seems?) but Koya bar is nothing to compare with.  Please don't tell me it is Teuchi Udon (freshly hand made udon) because it didn't taste like it at all.  Just overpriced for what it is.  And top of that the service was really bad and I was very uncomfortable.  I was there for an early lunch and there were already a bunch of people (NOT customer, friends or staff I guess?) sitting or leaning over the counter chatting with cooks, among them there was a guy who seems to be the owner, very arrogant and talking really loud to his staff just next to my ear.  There was no thank you good bye when I left after paying the bill. I don't recommend it at all.

Tastemaker

I went to try their special kooky breakfast udon and got what I expected - an attempt at fusion that failed horribly with a measly piece of bacon and mushrooms. However, their soup and the udon itself is fantastic, and if I go back again, I would definitely try their more 'normal' dishes. Stay away from the weird options! 

Tastemaker

One of my friend's favourite restaurants in London. Be prepared to queue for a while to get a seat, seems to be always full when I walk past it. Was a bit disappointed in the hot udon prawn tempura dish. Expected there to be more flavours but it fell a bit flat. The squid starter though saved the evening!

Tastemaker

A small bar in soho offering a variety of udon noodles for breakfast! Feel like you’re abroad with a cycle down here on a Sunday morning. 

We ordered the English breakfast udon complete with fried egg and bacon and a bowl of sweet tofu noodles with a side of sticky fermented natto beans. 


Extremely BAD quality of the food!!! :((( Everything that we ordered tasted really bad...Couldn't even eat a miso soup there...


Transport yourself to Tokyo and sample the amazing clean flavours of Japan. Perch yourself on bar stools and slurp down some smooth chewy udon noodles 


There are so many restaurants with novelty factors, overwhelmingly-extensive menus and frilly ingredients, so this was a nice blast of simplicity and tradition in the heart of the bustling city. The noodles are homemade, silky and delicious; try the Zaru udon for something delightful and different! It's a suitable place to dine alone, but I don't recommend a massive party as space is hard to come by and reservations aren't taken. Fantastic quality and fancy free, this place is worth a visit. Ali


This place is adjacent to the original Koya restaurant and serves very similar menu The food is as tasty as the original restaurant and serves great udon soup noodles. It is a nice space and having a counter, it makes easier for single person to dine. Definitely recommended to pop in for soup noodle snack.