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What is it?
In our humble opinion, the best part about Koya – Soho’s beloved udon noodle bar – is its transportative quality. You glide through the noren-shrouded doorway into a sparse, compact space that’s mostly engulfed by the central bar, lined with stool-perched diners slurping fat udon. The effect is that romantic, Lost in Translation facsimile of Japan – serene, warm, and uncomplicated, something totally different from the rest of Soho’s hype-machine restaurants.
Koya’s new sister restaurant, Koya Ko, has that same fantastical draw – perhaps even more so. Hidden down a narrow close off Broadway Market, its blue-and-white striped awning and navy, Japanese-scrawled flags signal a portal to another realm, one far away (and altogether more serene) than the buzzy, people-crammed Market. Outside, there’s a covered seated area on the cobbled street – which, though small, actually holds more diners than inside the restaurant, which houses just a handful of two-seater tables next to the blue-topped counter. To order, saunter up and choose from a selection of hot and cold udon, rice dishes, and snacks – all scrawled on the crowded blackboard – to eat in or take home.
It’s a lovely respite from boisterous, busy Hackney – a little zen island serving soul-satiating soups and chopstick-sized treats. Go for a mid-Saturday lunch TO or a spontaneous dinner with a local pal – Koya is a reliable choice around the clock, and bound to become your newest go-to.
What should I order?
Duh, the udon – ordered hot (swimming in a dashi, or broth) or cold, it comes in a mercifully large bowl, latticed and tangled like a ball of yarn. The texture is just right – satisfyingly chewy and springy like the waistband on sweatpants. Go for the classic miso dashi version – served with pieces of pork and ginger – if you want to appreciate them in all their glory, or the kake with vegan dashi for veggies.
The mini-don rice bowls deserve a shout out, too – particularly the curry-don, doused in katsu-esque curry sauce and topped with a soft-boiled egg tempura.
For dessert, ice cream sandwiches work a treat – made by nearby Happy Endings, can’t-resist flavours like Strawberry Shorty (vanilla marshmallow, strawberry jam, and cheesecake parfait between crumbly brown sugar shortbread) and The Naughty One (miso salted caramel ice cream and slices of chocolate Guinness cake) are the perfect counterweight to a hot bowl of soup.
Why should I go?
You’re hungry, you’re in the neighbourhood, and you need to be coaxed back to life by something salubrious and in a bowl.
10-12 Broadway Market Mews, London E8 4TS