Latest opening: INÉ

By Joe Lutrario

- Last updated on GMT

INÉ sushi restaurant Hampstead chef Takuya Watanabe

Related tags Taku Geoff Leong Takuya Watanabe Japanese cuisine Sushi INÉ

Takuya Watanabe and the Leong family’s follow up to their Michelin-starred Mayfair omakase joint Taku has a more casual vibe but is still decidedly high-end.

What:A Japanese restaurant on Hampstead High Street.​ INÉ is sister restaurant to Taku, which launched in Mayfair towards the end of 2022​ and won a Michelin star just a few months later. INÉ is being positioned as more of a neighbourhood restaurant than its big-ticket West End sibling, albeit quite an upmarket one. 

Who:​ The overall chef behind the project is Takuya ‘Taku’ Watanabe. Trained in Japan in both traditional kaiseki cuisine and omakase sushi, Watanabe was until fairly recently chef patron at Paris sushi restaurant Jin, which also won a Michelin star soon after opening. He has teamed up with Geoff and Lucas Leong, whose family own and manage a string of Chinese restaurants in the capital (the current portfolio includes Leong’s Legend, Dumpling’s Legend and Goldfish). The kitchen at INÉ is being led by head chef Law Kwok Meng, who was previously Watanabe’s second in command at Taku and has 23 years of experience as a sushi chef. 

The vibe:​ On the former site of Goldfish (which recently decamped to larger premises in Camden earlier this year), INÉ has a comparable aesthetic to Taku but is a lot more stripped back. The site - which has an open kitchen to the front - is compact but encapsulates three different offers: an eight cover omakase counter, 15 or so covers to the rear of the ground floor offering a la carte, and an upstairs sake and cocktail bar (food may be offered at the latter at some point, although INÉ's tiny kitchen appears to already have its work cut out). 

The food:​ Priced at £100 (£120 with an otoro and caviar course) INÉ’s omakase is considerably less expensive than Taku’s, which is amongst the most pricey in the capital costing a minimum of £300 in the evenings (a cheaper, slightly condensed version is available at lunch). Kwok Meng serves a more modern style of sushi to his mentor but in general sticks to classic combinations and flavours. As with Taku and most other high-end London omakase restaurants, the meal is largely made up of sushi and sashimi but also includes a few plated dishes. On our visit these included a miso soup with mussels; house-smoked salmon with dashi jelly and tofu puree; and delicately-tempura'd octopus. The a la carte offer is pitched at a similar level to the omakase with prices for nigiri - which is served in two - ranging from £7 to £18. Other dishes include wagyu beef katsu sando; tuna carpaccio; and grilled salmon with miso. 

To drink:​ The wine list is tight but well-thought out. Wines are organised according to style and what they go best with, for example there is a selection of ‘mineral and saline’ wines which are recommended to be matched with INÉ's sashimi and shellfish dishes. Of course, there is also a selection of sake to choose from. Prices start at £42 per bottle for wine and £23.50 for 180ml carafes of sake. 

And another thing:​ Given that standards are similar to those at Taku, INÉ is a bit of a bargain at the moment. Restaurant​ understands that the restaurant uses exactly the same produce as its older sibling but in general does not age its fish, a process that potentially improves flavour and texture but also results in up to 30% shrinkage.

16 Hampstead High St, London NW3 1PX

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