Recruited by a Japanese cult

NOBU The Metropolitan Hotel, 19 Old Park Lane, London W1Y 4LB. Tel: 0171 447 4747. Open Monday to Saturday 6 to 10.15pm and from 1 April noon to 3pm. Chef's choice menu from pounds 50 per person. Average a la carte price, pounds 40. Credit cards accepted

"If They Tell us once more that what we want is not what we really, really want, this is all going to end very badly," said Tracey as, having ordered a beer and warm sake, we found ourselves persuaded that what we really wanted was a different beer and cold sake.

To say the waiters are very hands-on in Nobu - the Japanese restaurant in the astonishing new Metropolitan Hotel on Park Lane - is like saying you think the public could be beginning to suspect that Patsy Kensit and Liam Gallagher might be about to start an affair.

We began the evening convinced a good-looking man at the entrance wanted to have a relationship with us, only to discover he was a greeter, followed by an almost identical experience with a middle-aged man at reception who turned out to be a manager. On arrival in the first-floor Japanese restaurant the entire waiting staff delightedly chorused something unintelligible and as we sat down our waiter asked if we wanted to start a family. It turned out he was asking if we wanted to share each others' food, in a lovely positive way which suggested it wasn't so much a suggestion as an order.

The Metropolitan Hotel (owned by Christina Ong who also has the designery Halkin hotel) is astonishing because it is on Park Lane but modern: the first hotel to open there for two decades. Instead of a glitter of mirrors, gilt and bulbous oriental lamps, the foyer is white and airy with strange- shaped sofas and chunky white shelves dotted with coloured objects like the Conran Shop vase department. Upstairs, the Nobu restaurant and sushi bar is a big white space with halogen lighting, tiled floor, buff-coloured banquettes, and bits of etched glass but, apart from the surprise of its moderness, the real surprise is that it's surprisingly unsurprising.

What Nobu does have is a bloody amazing chef, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, also of LA and New York, who specialises in "new style" Japanese cuisine. It's also massively name-droppy.

Opened in a partnership with Robert De Niro three days before we arrived, it was riddled with raddled commercials directors sporting breathtakingly beautiful giant girls in head- to-toe Prada. Here and there a rogue Luckybitch (orange-faced, lip-linered and dripping with fake gold) was at large and at the table next to ours was an international convention of Luckybitches, including a resplendent Japanese version swathed in a magenta cape festooned with black butterflies, and a Japanese Spice Girl hairdo. Tracey grew frankly overexcited by the presence of someone called Bunty Matthias who Sharon and I had never heard of and kept mixing up name-wise with Betty Boothroyd who is quite a different thing.

Sharon and Tracey had just returned from a mini-break in Iceland and Sharon had a very interesting anecdote about seven pairs of trousers for two days and almost getting banned from a bar for being underage, but she couldn't get to the punch line because the waiter kept interrupting with more suggestions: in particular Omakase - the chef's selection - which started at pounds 50 a head but could go up to any price (especially if you had gold sprinkled on it which is very good for the digestion) but which we rejected because it would have meant discussing our allergies with him. "Anyway..." restarted Shaz reaching for her drink, but he was back: "When you pour sake it's sometimes nice to raise your glasses to each other with a warming toast." "He'll be telling us what to talk about next," Shazzer muttered, "He's like a tour guide who makes you look out the coach window whenever you start enjoying yourself."

The meal, though, was absolutely fantastic. Japanese food tends to be delicious in a samey sort of way and it's a joy to taste some which has so many exquisite and complicated flavours apart from soy sauce and fish. Favourites were mussels with Matsuhisa sauce, and black cod with miso so rich and warm that it seemed more like a delicious pudding than a fish.

It would have been nice, though, to eat it all in peace. "So we are standing at the entrance and the woman said..." re-began Shazzer, only to be interrupted by the waiter explaining: "Now I'm going to leave you alone for a while to give you some time to chat."

We had almost got to the key anecdote moment while tucking into a truly great sushi selection with our chopsticks (sometimes its nice not to eat your sushi until after the main courses because the rice soaks up the digestive juices or some such gobbledegook) when he was back. "Sometimes it's nice to pick up the sushi with your fingers..."

"Look," Tracey exploded, "We're suffering from an overload of information," at which, instead of going away, he began to explain why he was giving us so many explanations. "I think what it is - there's a lot of enthusiasm, everyone's been told what the origin of all the courses are, Nobu's history, and sometimes it's nice..."

Desperate, we paid the bill (pounds 140 for three including drinks and service) and headed down to the bar which was taken over by a private party of unimaginable coolness, so we sat outside in the foyer (next to famous actress Miranda Richardson), and gaped at everyone coming and going from the toilets.

As we were leaving a divine whippersnapper approached and asked if we'd like to take him home and let him chase us round the bedroom. We assumed it was another aspect of Japanese culture we had to learn about: "Sometimes it's nice for foyer greeters to pretend to pick up guests." Then, halfway home, we realised that he was too drunk to be staff and started furiously kicking ourselves. "Nobu is my favourite restaurant," said Tracey wistfully and we all agreed it was the New-Swinging-London-Vanity-Fair-Patsy-and- Liam place to go, if only the waiters would stop behaving like Japanese- culture Moonies who were about to offer you a free personality test on Tottenham Court Road.

Arts and Entertainment
Stewart Lee (Gavin Evans)


Arts and Entertainment
No half measures: ‘The Secret Life of the Pub’

Grace Dent on TV The Secret Life of the Pub is sexist, ageist and a breath of fresh air

Arts and Entertainment
Art on their sleeves: before downloads and streaming, enthusiasts used to flick through racks of albums in their local record shops
musicFor Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Arts and Entertainment
Serial suspect: the property heir charged with first-degree murder, Robert Durst
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Igarashi in her

Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
It's all in the genes: John Simm working in tandem with David Threlfall in 'Code of a Killer'

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Far Right and Proud: Reggies Yates' Extreme Russia

TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West was mobbed in Armenia after jumping into a lake

Arts and Entertainment
The show suffers from its own appeal, being so good as to create an appetite in its viewers that is difficult to sate in a ten episode series

Game of Thrones reviewFirst look at season five contains some spoilers
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench and Kevin Spacey on the Red Carpet for 2015's Olivier Awards

Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awards

Arts and Entertainment
Proving his metal: Ross Poldark (played by Aidan Turner in the BBC series) epitomises the risk-taking spirit of 18th-century mine owners

Poldark review
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne is reportedly favourite to play Newt Scamander in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars in dystopian action thriller Mad Max: Fury Road

Arts and Entertainment
Josh, 22, made his first million from the game MinoMonsters

Grace Dent

Channel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Disgraced Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson
Arts and Entertainment
Game face: Zoë Kravitz, Bruce Greenwood and Ethan Hawke in ‘Good Kill’

film review

Arts and Entertainment
Living like there’s no tomorrow: Jon Hamm as Don Draper in the final season of ‘Mad Men’

TV review

Arts and Entertainment
Yaphett Kotto with Julius W Harris and Jane Seymour in 1973 Bond movie Live and Let Die

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own