Not long ago we were invited for an exclusive tour and dining experience at Ichiba London in Westfield. I was very keen to go there with my family and learn all about them. I love that it is located in Westfield which is close to us. Westfield has recently done an expansion and has added so many new shops and restaurants which Ichiba is one of them.
If you love Japanese food and culture, you would be delighted to know that Ichiba is Europe’s largest Japanese Food Hall where you can get a taste of Japanese cuisine and culture in a unique way!
Ichiba opened at Westfield London on the 14th July 2018 and is the first joint venture between the Japan Centre Group and Cool Japan Fund. 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 handpicked ceramics from the leading craft prefectures. There is also a traditional Japanese bakery and café serving items such as dorayaki pancakes with teas including hot or iced matcha lattes.
ARRIVING AT ICHIBA
As soon as we arrived at Westfield we parked in the new parking area of the shopping centre which is the section where Ichiba is located. We went upstairs and we found it straight away. You won’t miss it at all because you can see the big signs with the Ichiba logo.
They had a Hello Kitty stand for photos so the girls, of course, had to give it a go but the one that was super excited to do it was Sienna. She couldn’t stop smiling! Bless her!
The entrance is very impressive! As soon as you walked in you feel that you are magically transported to Japan! It is such a fantastic feeling! We were greeted and showed around the Food Hall. It was great to listen to all the history of this place as well as everything that they can offer when you visit them.
Ichiba offers a contemporary twist on traditional Japanese elements with in-store surroundings to support the quality of the food. Japanese style paper structures, flags and traditional fabrics break up the space, while lights inspired by chopsticks, lanterns and traditional wooden elements help customers navigate the zones of the store.
BAKERY & CAKE
Immediately to the left as soon as you get in you will see their bakery and cafe area. I thought it was very interesting that they have incorporated a bakery. It is nice to know that you can go there and have something quick and typical from Japan too like matcha lattes, expertly prepared tea or coffee paired with freshly baked treats like melon pans and dorayaki (Japanese filled pancakes).
We also saw some mochis which are Japanese rice cakes made of mochigome, a short-grain japonica glutinous rice. The rice is pounded into paste and molded into the desired shape. But the ones we saw were frozen like sorbets. We didn’t try it that day but I will make sure we try it next time we go.
Japanese cooking is known for its frequent use of selected staple ingredients including fresh fruit and vegetables, soy sauce and mirin rice wine for seasoning, panko breadcrumbs and tempura flour for coating and vinegars and oils for dressing. You can find all of these ingredients within their bright isles in their Food Hall.
Ichiba is the first joint venture between the Japan Centre Group and Cool Japan Fund, which helps support businesses to promote Japanese food and culture overseas. The fund’s partnerships with local and artisan suppliers across Japan allows Ichiba to offer authentic products and rare regional produce from some of the best producers and farmers exclusively to the UK.
FRESH FISH & MEAT
Fresh meat and fish is very well-known on Japanese dishes so a fresh butcher and fishmongers section is definitely something you will be able to find at Ichiba.
Typical dishes such as sukiyaki, shabu shabu and yakiniku have thinly sliced meats and fresh seafood as part of their ingredients.
One of the things that caught our attention was the area where you can buy freshly prepared sushi. You will probably find any type of sushi that you can think of. For example, my eldest daughter Bella loves sushi but she is very particular with the type of sushi she eats so she only wanted one with seaweed, rice and cucumber. I was sure she wouldn’t find a sushi with all her specifications on the shelves but I was wrong! We were able to find the exact sushi she wanted! And she ate it all!
I also love sushi. My favourites are the ones with rice with cheese with some sweet and sour flavour. I love it even better if it has avocado. The ones with tempura inside are also very tasty. You will have a sushi feast there for sure.
IZAKAYA – SAKE BAR
They also have Izakaya/Sake Bar which is a type of Japanse bar in which a variety of small, typically inexpensive, dishes and snacks are served to accompany the alcoholic drinks.
They have a Happy Hour when you can get 2 for 1 cocktails or 2 Asahi Pints for £8. They have a large selection of sake on offer which you can taste and enjoy there. If you plan ahead, you can attend a sake-tasting seminar, learning about the history of the drink together with a variety of samples.
They also have ice cold artisanal Japanese beers, Kirin topping drinks with “soft serve” frozen beer foam, Japanese soft drinks, iced teas and sweet and savoury sakes.
Part of the snacks on offer are Yakitori which is a Japanese type of skewered chicken (Roast meat on skewers). Wagyu beef teriyaki, squid shio and negima shio on a stick, expertly cooked over a robata grill.
And for the noodle lovers, there is a noodle bar where visitors can sample freshly prepared noodles and Tonkotsu ramen which is a Japanese broth made from pork marrow, typically served with ramen.
For those of you that don’t know what Ramen is, it is a quick-cooking noodle, typically served in a broth with meat and vegetables. Very tasty!
They have a new format concept where they have on display theatrical kitchens so you can see how they prepare the noodles in front of you which brings a completely different experience to visitors.
RESTAURANT & TAKEAWAY
We were also shown the restaurant and the different cooking stations surrounding the restaurant. You have so many options to choose from. Gyoza, ramen, curry, yakitory, sushi, etc. You will be spoilt for choice.
When we arrived, it was early for lunch, so the restaurant area was pretty empty just a couple of people there but when it was lunchtime I got impressed how quickly it was so busy with lots of people queuing. See image above.
I really like the different seats that they had available. You can choose between larger tables for groups, tables for 4 or 2 and some sort of booths. I wanted to seat on those booths but unfortunately, they were all taken.
They had Donburi (bowls of rice) and fresh tuna poke with a matcha yuzu dressing available as well as Takayaki, yakisoba, teppanyaki style, tempura and noodles alongside more elevated fare such as sushi and sashimi
TAKOYAKI & OKONOMIYAKI
They have a special food station for Takokai (a ball-shaped Japanese snack made of a wheat flour-based batter and cooked in a special molded pan). It is typically filled with minced or diced octopus (tako), tempura scraps (tenkasu), pickled ginger, and green onion.
If you’re looking for something sweet, they also offered Okonomiyaki which is a Japanese savoury pancake containing a variety of ingredients.
They have also available a selection of homeware – beautiful traditional and contemporary Japanese ceramics, children’s stationery and an extensive range of Hello Kitty products!
The girls also spotted lots of Japanese sweets which of course caught their eyes! They had matcha green tea flavoured Kit Kats! How weird is that? I am now curious to try them!
EATING AT ICHIBA
Little Sienna doing what she loves the most in life: EATING! lol
After the tour, it was time to EAT! Yes! This is what we were so desperate to try since we arrived! After going around the aisles and seeing so much food on display we were definitely ready to try something, LOL! You have so many options because the menu selection is huge. You can order main dishes as well as small plates too.
We ordered fresh curry for Nick, fresh sushi for me and Bella and a kids meal for Sienna. I decided to order a few snacks instead of the main meal because I wanted to try different options. So I ordered a Gyoza (dumplings filled with ground meat and vegetables and wrapped in a thin dough) which was delicious. Takoyaki which was very tasty and actually half of it ended up in Sienna’s tummy, LOL! She loved it. And finally, I got a Kakitori. Everything was really good!
HELLO KITTY LUNCHBOXES
After a lovely lunch, the girls went to the gift shop to browse around for a souvenir to take home. They have so many Hello Kitty options so they just wanted to get something too and they chose the cutest lunchboxes ever. They are so adorable! Do you agree?
We certainly had a great time at Ichiba. It is the best place to visit if you are a Japanese culture and food lover. You can find a large range of Japanese staples and kitchens essentials from rice, miso and tea, to a wide selection of sake and confectionery alongside books, beauty products and handpicked ceramics from the leading craft prefectures.
It is a fantastic concept that offers visitors the opportunity to dine, shop and experience Japanese cuisine and culture with an element of theatre. Perfect for families and very well located! We loved our experience there and we will be coming back soon! 🙂
Do you love Japanese cuisine and culture? Would you like to visit Ichiba?
*Disclosure: We were invited for a private tour around the Food Hall as well as having a complimentary meal for the whole family in exchange for this review. However, all thoughts and opinions are my own.
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