There’s a new Japanese restaurant south of the river. Four Degree recently opened in St George’s Wharf and I’ve seen and read good things about it on social media.
I wanted to love it.
But did I?
A “Japanese restaurant with a European twist”, the place comes across as a restaurant cum bar and home to the UK’s first Macallan Whisky lounge. There’s plenty of things that could go right there, for the combination of sushi and whisky is something that makes me rather happy.
I liked the interiors. Walking in, you can tell that there’s a certain vibe the place is trying to exude. It seemed like a spot where you meet with friends to up your pre-game and have dainty dishes before you set off for hedonistic activities. We went on a Saturday night, just before things got busier. The clientele is a mix of “young’uns and good’uns” - some dressed to the nines for a big night out whilst some dressed to impress for a quality evening.
So far, so good.
Chicken kara-age (£9.60) is always good to start with, because really and truly, is there anything as gastronomically satisfying as biting into crunchy fried chicken? Four Degree’s offering was good enough, with the crispy coating heftily seasoned and the meat succulent and well cooked. This was reminiscent of my favourite Chisou‘s kara-age. So a decent start, it was.
Next up were the crispy wonton tacos (£12). I had high hopes for this dish, thinking these would be similar to Sosharu’s temaki. The menu said these deep fried wonton skin came with hand pulled duck leg meat and miso, fish tartar, caviar and avocado salsa.
And fair enough they did. But I thought each taco would be layered with those ingredients, instead of one ingredient per taco.
Frankly, this was quite disappointing and one-dimensional.
Trying to rein our sashimi appetites, we opted for the nozomi (£20). The usual suspects of salmon, tuna and yellow tail were presented beautifully. Both the hamachi and tuna tasted absolutely stunning, with the freshness of the seafood shining through. However, the salmon slices were curiously divided by slivers of lemon. Whilst this was aesthetically pleasing, the middle part of the fish were unfortunately cured in the fruit’s natural juice.
Disappointed with the moriawase, but believing in second chances, I ordered the salmon sashimi a la carte (£12) which was heaps better. I would’ve preferred it if they didn’t roll up two slices with shiso, as I’m quite partial to this leaf’s flavour, but all in all the fish was fresh and flavoursome.
I originally wanted to order the king crab with caviar and avocado roll, however they didn’t have it so I asked for the “spicy tuna and salmon roll” instead. Curiously, the server said we had to choose whether we wanted spicy tuna or spicy salmon as the menu was not quite accurate. It was either or - you don’t get two types in one roll. Boohoo.
So we went for the soft shell crab roll instead (£12). It was just okay. I was, perhaps, a bit too bummed about the grammatical/misleading error on the menu to care much about this one.
The black cod miso (£33.60) was rather substantial. I liked that the fish was meaty and big enough to soak in the miso marinade because it was slightly on the sweeter side. Personally, I think a bit of charring could’ve given this dish a more robust taste, but it was still delicious and the fish was nicely cooked.
My shining star of the night was the baby spare ribs (£12.60). Caramelised in a thick, sweet sauce, the meat was absolutely fall-off-the-bone tender. It had the right amount of fat and a wonderful kick from hansho peppers and chilli. I happily devoured this with hot steamed rice. It was comfort food, and a wonderful welcome amidst all the other dishes we’ve had.
I was ready to roll, but I thought I might as well try one of the desserts. I went for the banana miso (£9). Served in a chawanmushi pot, it’s essentially bananas layered with caramel miso sauce, and banana ice cream topped with black crumble. I actually liked it. Possibly one of the simpler desserts on the menu, but pretty straightforward and a good portion.
Verdict for Four Degree
I really wanted to love it. I had high hopes, but left slightly underwhelmed. I can’t fault the service, but admittedly there were things on the menu that could’ve been explained better (ie the tacos and the ‘and’ vs ‘or’ issues). I thought the sashimi faux pas was forgivable on the basis of them hopefully not mixing citrus in the fish slabs in the future - as the fish was fresh anyway.
The bill came up to £170 for two (with a glass of wine each). I can’t help but compare it to what I usually pay at my trusty Chisou in Mayfair (almost half!) for about the same amount of food.
Four Degree could be better, but til then, the hunt for good Japanese this side of the river continues.
2C St George Wharf, London SW8
Ave spend pp: £80
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This place looks really interesting, though the menu contains more and less fancy Japanese dishes, that actually in Japan wouldn’t be served in one restaurant. Also, some dishes seems weird (who stands behind “banana miso”?! Is that some fusion experiment?!). Pity, that the place hasn’t fulfilled your expectations. Yet, I’d like to check it, next time, I’m in London (maybe they will improve until then).
Haha! Definitely not for the purists, although admittedly some of their fusion dishes may have caused confusion. I do hope they improve sooner than later!
Bummer the place didn’t live up to your expectations. The presentation was gorgeous but those are some interesting dishes, that’s for sure. I’m sure they’ll experience a few menu changes as they are establishing themselves. Maybe those changes will be for the better 🙂
You’re right, Elle - perhaps these are just teething problems and I hope so!
I can’t fault service and presentation so I’m sure there will be lotsa room for improvement! =)
Japanese food is not something I have experienced much of, with the exception of sashimi, so tis was interesting to read, but at £170 for two, I doubt I’ll be visiting!
Hi Justine - it was rather on the pricier side, no? Bummer!
I am not a Japanease food expert, I only tried some of its dishes while being in Japan last spring, but I enjoyed your review. You clearly had a bit bigger expectations and for a price you paid, you wanted food to be just excellent and the way you imagines. Still the dishes look gorgeous and yummy in your photographs. Personally I prefer That food 🙂
I suppose it was only because I’ve had high quality Japanese food from established restaurants who weren’t really pitching their offering at a higher price point. 🙂 Thanks Wiola!
This is an excellent review. I appreciate the authenticity. The plating is certainly spectacular, but I would find the same discrepancies you did to be annoying. Superb photos!
Thanks Catherine, I do try to be as unbiased as I can! Also, I know my experience may be different from any one else’s who may have had better experiences 🙂
Wow, the interior looks very stylish and inviting. But the food looks incredible! It’s a bit far fromwhere I live, but when I am around, I will go there and check it out! 🙂
Haha hopefully when you get back they’d’ve improved a few things!
The nozomi and the black cod miso look great, as do the ribs. I like the decor too, will bear in mind if in that part of town
No worries Suzy - hope they’ve improved by then!
Such a shame it didn’t quite live up to the mark Honey, especially with the tacos, which sounded so good from the description! Banana miso dessert sounds yummy though!
Agree with those tacos, I really thought they would be layered!
The food was beautifully presented and it looks like they have a very nice atmosphere. Lovely photos you took. I love Japanese food and are quite spoiled where I live as we have plenty of restaurants like that to choose from. I especially love it when there is a “fusion” of cuisines. It makes it more interesting.
Thanks Michelle! I wish I had the luxury of having lots of Japanese options as well!
Finding a decent, not astronomically priced Japanese restaurant in London is so tricky! There were definitely some hits and misses there, but I have to say, your photo makes those ribs looks smoking hot!
Such a challenge, isn’t it? I still think Chisou in Mayfair is one of the most reliable and decently priced. Roka is good too. Dinings is amazing but you do pay premium.
I would love to taste the banana miso looks daring. In general, the food and the way they are served looks really delicious.
The banana miso dessert was okay. Kudos to them for presentation!
Such a shame you didn’t love it. For that price I would have expected a lot more
Yeah, I agree! I was really underwhelmed.
The restaurant does look good. The decor and food look really nice. Shame you were not completely sold on it.
Can’t fault the interiors and the plating!
Love the way this place looks. It is right up my alley, in terms of atmosphere. however, I completely get it when you have so many expectations about a restaurant, only to leave a bit disappointed. The photographs looked delicious though 🙂 🙂
I really wanted to love it, Iulia! Shame I didn’t!
The food was well presented, no doubt!
Too bad it did not meet your expectations. The food looked beautiful!
Can’t really fault the aesthetics and the plating of food!
Great photos and the dishes look wonderful. I don’t know enough about Japanese food to really comment but for that price I think you should expect to be wow’d so it’s a shame that you weren’t. Hopefully it’s just because the restaurant is new and settling in.
I hope it’s just teething problems, too Nancy!
Wow! Look at the presentation of that food! It’s amazing.
Yes, Erika. They tasted okay too, but not as good as I expected.
The restaurant looks lovely and that sashimi looks mouthwatering! It’s too bad you weren’t impressed (especially at those prices).
The restaurant itself was good. The food was good but I’ve had better 🙂
What a shame… You could have sold me a ticket to this place at any time - because your food-photos are strikingly beautiful! Happy with your honest review, so I didn’t go! Good luck with the hunt for Japanese gourmet pleasures, Honey 😉
Thanks Louise! As you know, I’ll always be honest with my reviews but as I say, it’s just my opinion and everyone else may have a different experience! =)
Thanks Louise - hope all’s okay!
It’s rotten when you have high hopes for a restaurant and it just misses the mark. Your review still made my mouth water, though, with those ribs…. drool. Interesting note about the lemon curing the salmon slices. I wouldn’t even have noticed that.
Haha, those ribs still make me drool when I think of them. But yes, I was very disappointed when the lemon juices cured the middle of the salmon! =(
Shame you were underwhelmed! I’m always looking out for a good Japanese restaurant.
Really helpful review, especially as I too like Chisou and gives that point of reference. It looks like it’s not quite where it thinks it is, quality wise but it’s close, as ingredients look good quality.
What a shame that the meal turned to be underwhelming. Everything does look pretty appetizing, which also means you are a terrific photographer. 🙂 xx
The restaurant is looking amazing with the facilities. Food presentation is beautiful and that encourages me to visit this restaurant.