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The sightly corporate fifth taste: Umami

By on 27 June 2012 in Food & drink

The sightly corporate fifth taste: Umami
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What does ‘Umami’ literally mean? Ask anyone who pretends to know something about food, and you’ll get a load of cod-mystical mumbo-jumbo about ‘the fifth taste’, which is supposed to be something that exists in the netherworld between sweet, spicy, hot and cold. Apparently this is now common knowledge amongst the food world’s great and good, but I’m damned if I know anything about it.

People who clearly do are those who have opened the new pan-Asian restaurant, boldly named Umami, at the Crowne Plaza hotel on the Cromwell Road in Kensington. First impressions, it must be noted, verged on the negative. Even the finest hotel restaurants have a tendency to feel corporate and somewhat soulless, and this was no exception. Chuck in the fact that (albeit early on a weeknight) it was practically empty, and warning bells sounded.

Thankfully, the food soon disproved this. ‘Pan-Asian’ is often a synonym for ‘chef doesn’t know what he’s doing’, but here the clever tapas-sized platefuls offered intriguingly rich and complex cooking, whether they are shared by two or greedily scoffed by one. The likes of beef rendang and Thai fishcakes are superbly executed, and sensibly priced as well – this is some of the best value in what can be a very overpriced area. However, go off piste and the chef’s expertise becomes really clear, with such delights as the duck kerabu salad and the sea bass offering sumptuous dining, with really lovely depths of flavour and expansive taste. Perhaps umami isn’t so misplaced a term.

The wine list may not be extensive, but it is reasonably priced, with a couple of decent Merlots and Chardonnays below the £20 mark. Cocktails are pricier but pretty decent as well, with a lychee-tinged bellini one of the best things that we had. While Umami isn’t going to win any awards, it’s a very good quality meal that’s excellent value and well worth a visit if you fancy something more authentic than the overpriced tourist traps around South Kensington and Knightsbridge.

Umami, 100 Cromwell Road, London SW7 4ER, Tel: +44 20

Article

The sightly corporate fifth taste: Umami

First impressions of Umami verged on the negative. Even the finest hotel restaurants have a tendency to feel corporate and somewhat soulless, and this was no exception. Thankfully, the food soon disproved this. The clever tapas-sized platefuls offered intriguingly rich and complex cooking. While Umami isn’t going to win any awards, it’s a very good quality meal that’s excellent value and well worth a visit if you fancy something more authentic than the overpriced tourist traps around South Kensington and Knightsbridge.

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Alex Larman woke up at the tender age of 23 and, Martin Luther King-like, announced to the world that he had a dream. He was simultaneously going to write the 21st century's answer to Ulysses, direct the film that the bastard child of Scorsese, Kubrick and George Formby might have made and become a global roue on a hitherto unknown scale. Then reality kicked in, and the dream collapsed, in favour of a parlous and occasionally sketchy existence maintained writing about food, drink, film and all the other essential requirements of a modern boulevardier's life.

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