Peter Morrell reports on the opening of this impressive new foodie destination
On 14th July the Japan Centre Group launched Europe’s largest Japanese Food Hall, Ichiba in Westfield London, Shepherd’s Bush. It’s located just off the new Westfield Square on the lower ground floor.
The 17,400 sq. ft. flagship store features food stations dedicated to freshly prepared and cooked food including ramen, curries and sushi. The main food hall offers a large range of Japanese staples and kitchen essentials, from rice, miso and tea, to a wide selection of sake and confectionery, alongside books, beauty products and hand-picked ceramics from the leading craft prefectures.
In-store experiences are a key part of the new format concept. Theatrical kitchens are set around seating for over 200 covers with a changing schedule of weekly cooking demonstrations and workshops, events, regional food and drink festivals and sake tasting seminars. Guests can also dine on the outdoor terrace.
There is a traditional Japanese bakery and café serving items such as dorayaki pancakes with teas including hot or iced matcha lattes. Alongside, there is a dedicated demo station for sake tastings and cooking demonstrations and a noodle bar where visitors can sample freshly prepared noodles and tonkotsu ramen.
I took a look around and was amazed by the range of food ingredients and tableware on offer. There was an array of aged rices available, vinegars, soy sauces and even confectionery, I can thoroughly recommend the matcha Kit Kat. For the Japanese eating a meal is an aesthetic experience and this is reflected in the beautifully decorated plates and bowls on sale.
I sampled the sushi, sashima and soba noodles, all bright, fresh and bursting with flavour. One of the highlights was a G&T made with Japanese Roku Gin featured four seasons of botanicals.
The opening ceremony was a breathtaking array of Japanese customs and traditions. The Japanese Ambassador and other signatories smashed the lid of a sake barrel and shared the contents with the guests. The sake was served in small wooden boxes, the pine resin from the wood mingled with the flavour of the sake to produced a unique aromatic taste experience.
We were entertained with drummers, the reverberation of the beats entering your very soul. In front of the drummers, a Japanese artists with a huge brush and black ink drew patterns on paper spread across the floor.
Ichiba is a fantastic concept which offers visitors the opportunity to dine, shop and experience Japanese cuisine and culture with the additional element of theatre.
Unit 0220 Relay Square
London W12 7HB
About Japan Centre
Founded in 1976 in London, Japan Centre is one of the largest and most influential Japanese stores in Europe. With a passion for supplying the best authentic goods, the Japan Centre has a range of over 3,000 products spanning food, drink, and lifestyle. In-store experts make Japanese sushi and hot souzai, and the fishmonger and butcher counters serve fresh produce cut the traditional Japanese way. The in-store bakery serves a large selection of hand made and hard to find Japanese pastries and breads, which are baked daily.
In 2005 Japan Centre launched an online store, to bring a slice of Japan to those outside of London and the UK. Over 30 new items are added to the website weekly, sourced straight from Japan, making it the number one destination for those interested in the very best of Japanese food and culture.
For those looking for a slice of authentic Japanese cuisine outside of the home, Japan Centre Group has a number of restaurant offerings; Shoryu – Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen specialists, Sakagura – an izakaya dining experience, and has now launched Ichiba – Europe’s largest Japanese food hall.