I’ve always wanted to go to Tokyo. I think it’s somewhere that would blow my mind. When I think of Japan, my frontal cortex does a 3 second quick-fire LSD trip of Fifth Element, orchards of luminous cherry blossom, Lost in Translation and giggling harijuku girls.
It’s that Jekyll and Hyde blend of the outrageously advanced and reverence for tradition.
It may sound like something you catch but the only thing you’ll be catching is an eye for the outrageous interior and the seriously well-packaged food. This place is an Instagram dream. It’s on three floors, with each floor designed differently. It’s kitsch, colourful and totally maximalist.
I can vouch that the burgers are great and the cocktails are delicious. The cocktails are also available to take-away which means I can now roll around town, lightly buzzed, without judgment. Starbucks has a lot to compete with.
Ichibuns is in the heart of Chinatown (I don’t usually frequent Chinatown as I never know where to eat and the burden of trying to pick somewhere great, is too huge.)* We sat on the ground floor which has an open kitchen, upstairs has a more upscale, traditional Japanese vibe and the basement is full on subterranean Manga madness, perfect for late night drinks. The amount of textures, prints and awesome food packaging in one space is pretty trippy. It’s a hyper version of Japan but still keeps a cool, luxe rock and roll feel without going into the realms of tacky or too theme-y. I mean, it’s totally theme-y but there’s cool restraint; I’m sure someone in the design process had to say ‘No’ to plastering Hello Kitty stickers everywhere.
Regardless of whether it’s cool, kitsch or crazy, the design is completely immersive and experiential (more so on the top and bottom floors). If you’re getting itchy feet to head to Japan, you might be just be getting Ichibuns.
*I call it Diner’s Remorse. It’s the instant regret of picking somewhere once you’ve sat down and thinking ‘Can we leave now? Will they think we’re really rude or weird?’. If it’s not this, then it’s the constant feeling of wondering whether you’ve made the ‘right’ decision of not going to the ‘other place’ all throughout the meal you’re now begrudgingly eating.
Ichibuns, 22 Wardour Street, Soho
Photography by Shireen Dhaliwal & Gregory Davies