Nestled on Woodstock Street, just away from the hustle and bustle of Oxford Street, lies a very well kept secret. Sandwiched between an Angus Steakhouse and a Spaghetti House, you’d be forgiven for not expecting much of The Woodstock Kushiyaki Bar.
But you would be very wrong. While the surroundings may not conjure up images of traditional Japanese dining, the food most certainly does.
The Woodstock aims to bring the Japanese izakaya to London, which is a type of restaurant-cum-tavern where workers often stop for a post-work pit-stop, to refuel with a pint and some food. Specialising in kushiyaki (meaning grilled with teriyaki sauce) and kushiage (deep-fried with tonkatsu sauce) skewers, alongside an extensive sake menu, The Woodstock is serving up authentic Japanese culture along with its excellent food.
On our visit, we were treated to some of the best food that The Woodstock has to offer, beginning with some snacks. These came in the form of some incredibly moreish fried padron peppers which we dipped in a piquant blend of spices and salt. We also had some edamame beans which you can’t really go wrong with (although my dining companion holds a very low opinion of anything that can be considered remotely green or healthy, so eyed these with open contempt.The padron peppers only passed muster by merit of being deep fried. Note to self: must make more sophisticated friends).
The crispy calamari was delicious, fresh and tender, served with a Japanese mayo and yuzu salt, and was a world away from any rubbery squid nightmares I’ve had before. These treats were washed down with a zingy albeit luminous green cocktail, whipped up by the very charismatic (and frankly, v hot) barman especially for us, including Midori liqueur, sake and lemonade.
Having quickly polished off our snacks, we moved on to the skewers, which were served in pairs, ideal for sharing, selecting a mere six dishes (bikini body and all that) to sample. I also had a refreshing sake caipirinha which was an excellent way to dip a toe into the world of sake. We began with the kushiyaki, picking the chicken thighs, fillet beef, pork belly and king prawns with lime and chilli. All four of these dishes were absolutely amazing, I literally couldn’t fault a single one of them.
The prawns were succulent and sweet, with fiery chilli and sharp lime cutting through the heat; the chicken thighs were tender, with the sweet sticky teriyaki glaze complementing them beautifully. The pork belly was unbelievably tender, and simply fell of the skewer, as did the perfectly cooked fillet beef which was served pink in the middle, a real feat for such a finely sliced grilled meat. When the kushiage arrived, we were delighted again; enjoying well-seasoned courgette tempura and sweet soft-shell crab fried in the lightest crispiest batter imaginable.
Having had fantastic service all night, excellent cocktails and even better food, The Woodstock really surpassed all my expectations. I honestly could have eaten everything all over again, it was that good. Great for an after work pint (the Kirin Ichiban was very good) and a skewer, The Woodstock is a gem waiting to be uncovered. The atmosphere was low key and would be perfect for a date, as the food is easy to share (and even easier to eat!), and the relaxed setting would ease even the most nervous of Tinder dates. The only issue you’ll have would be eyeing up your date’s skewers!
The Woodstock Kushiyaki Bar
11 Woodstock Street
London W1C 2AE
Monday – Saturday 11am to midnight
Sunday 12am to 10pm
Kitchen close at 10:30pm