A Japanese delicacy is making strides in the planet’s culinary capitals, and now has found a rather grand home in London. We’re talking Soba, a buckwheat flour noodle, that’s served in many variations at the newly opened fine dining restaurtant Yen. Founded by Japanese fashion conglomerate Onward, owner of high-end brands such as Joseph and Jil Sander, the first dining venue opened in the leafy St.-Germain district of Paris in 2000. The restaurant occupies a lofty ground floor space of a modern mixed-use complex situated on the outskirts of the City district and overlooking the Thames river. Measuring a sizeable 450 sqm. set across two floors, Yen features an interior design by London-based architecture practice Sybarite which has previously worked on a string of the conglomerate’s retail spaces.
The aesthetic is strongly influenced by Japanese culture, and given its innate sense of understatement, the settings feel distinctly contemporary at the same time. The design makes the most of the high ceilings, notably a timber treescape structure inspired by bamboo forests that recreates a tree canopy effect. The Japanese wood of choice, maple, has been positioned in varying thicknesses and tones around columns and across the ceiling and together, the contrasting widths of the structure allow a play of light and shadow which give the vast space a sense of both depth and intimacy. Interestingly, a Soba station sits on the ground floor where guests can witness the restaurant’s premium ingredient being freshly made. Also to be found on the ground floor is a sushi counter and cocktail bar.
A floating timber staircase leads up to the mezzanine floor, and includes guadua and natural black bamboo poles that make it a sight to behold. On this floor additional seating is available, including a private dining room, and the setting here is defined by booths and separate seating arrangements, and perforated maple window screens. The private dining space has been given a luxurious touch, featuring ambient back lighting, a coffered ceiling, and flooring that mimics traditional tatami matting using bolon woven vinyl flooring and black rubber trims. The Yen restaurant is able to accommodate a total of 109 guests. As said, the menu is inspired by Soba, made by chefs trained by master soba chef Takahashi Kunihiro in Japan, and is served alongside sushi, sashimi, tempura, robata and other traditional Japanese dishes.
Photography: Guy G. Archard