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  • Restaurants
  • Covent Garden
  • price 3 of 4
  • 2 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

2 out of 5 stars

A Japanese restaurant-by-numbers whose unconvincing, unimaginative food doesn't live up to its good looks.

Sushi bars come in many shapes and sizes. Sometimes, when you’re celebrating a special occasion with a coveted reservation at an always buzzing destination – Zuma, say, or Nobu – a hefty price tag is part and parcel of the experience. But when all you want is a light lunch, a wallet-busting bill is another matter.

The problem with Murakami, a shiny new sushi offering in the heart of Covent Garden’s theatre district, is that it looks the part of a deeply fashionable modern Japanese restaurant, but beyond this smoke and mirrors lurks very little of substance. The dining room is stylish if unimaginative in a Japanese-restaurant-by-numbers way. Sake bottles as ornaments, a long bar for single diners, modern, minimalist furniture – with one or two oddball conceits thrown in for good measure, such as a long, narrow planter filled with samphire that runs the length of the room.

However, that’s as good as it gets. The menu is a line-up of the usual suspects – nigiri, sushi rolls, sashimi and tempura – all competently assembled in the open kitchen without threatening a culinary revolution. The grilled skewers of marinated meat, fish and vegetables that are bite-sized snacks in Japan were true miniatures here, the grilled baby octopuses almost embryonic and the chicken hearts surely from the smallest birds in the coop. Meanwhile, three thick slices of tuna sashimi presented on an absurdly large pile of frilly lettuce had the texture of a mealy winter tomato. The best dish was a platter of yellowtail carpaccio topped with chilli, citrussy ponzu and sticky slices of garlic.

Service was bumbling: despite the almost-empty dining room – staff forgot part of our order and were oblivious to our attempts to attract their attention. And then came the bill. The lightest of booze-free lunches for two clocked up to an astonishing £76. Given the cynical feel of this operation – which has ambitions to become a chain – we were left with a nasty taste in our mouths.

Written by Nicola Arencibia


63-66 St Martin’s Lane
Covent Garden
Meal for two with drinks and service: around £100.
Opening hours:
Open noon-11pm Sun-Tues; noon-midnight Wed-Sat.
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