Chotto Matte, Soho
Chotto Matte takes reservations. If you’re anything like me, someone who’s spent ample time queuing in Soho, you’ll understand the sheer joy this elicits. Frankly, waiting outside would be a waste, considering how invitingly sleek the interiors are. Think concrete walls – the good kind, the chic kind – burnt cedar cladding, and a bar made of carved lava stone.
I applaud a commitment to a theme and Chotto Matte doesn’t disappoint. Nikkei cuisine is at its heart, with Japanese-Peruvian flavours pervading the décor, menu and cocktail list. If stopping by for a quick drink, good luck – the Cuatro Uvas, a happy marriage of pisco and sake, simply must be drunk in multiples; it’s that good. Do not, I repeat, do not leave without nibbling (or more likely, wolfing down) the impossibly delicious yellowtail yuzu truffle tostadita. This will be the highlight of your evening, no matter how beautiful or charming your date.
Glamour pusses will feel right at home basking in the light of the UV artwork by Tokyo-based artist Houxo Que (although it doesn’t render well in selfies, annoyingly). It’s scene-y enough to rival Nobu but with prices suitably reasonable to justify a few more rounds of Chotto Bellinis before you rejoin Old Compton Street’s motley crew.
I know it’s arty and stuff, but subtly marked lavatories get my goat. A combination of fancy electronic sliding doors and lack of obvious ‘man shape’ or ‘woman shape’ signs make the loos (albeit dreamily art-worked) a little confusing to navigate. You may not want to waltz in on your date using the urinal; then again, you might. It takes all sorts.
5. Talk about sexy. The blemish-eclipsing mood lighting! The audaciously sultry curves of the bar! Hell, even the messy tostadita-gobbling feels like foreplay. It’s likely the rest of your night will be just as tender as that truffle-laced tuna sashimi.