Just a few moments’ walk from the formidable Marble Arch, you’ll find an unassuming townhouse with the signage ‘Prince Akatoki‘. It’s not until you glance to your right at the impressive selection of plaques and accolades that you’ll realise the opulent experience that awaits you at this Japanese-inspired hotel – and boy, be ready to be impressed. One of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World and boasting a Forbes Travel Guide five-star rating to boot, Prince Akatoki is a tranquil escape in the heart of our bustling city. Alongside 82 exquisite rooms, the five-star pad also offers the tantalising TOKii restaurant and old world-style Malt Bar and Lounge, open to hotel guests and non guests alike. We took a visit and here’s what we discovered.
As you step foot in the hotel, the first thing that hits you is an enticing aroma: think camomile, cedarwood and those kinds of tranquil smells. Then, as you make your way to the ground-floor restaurant entrance, a new smell hits: that of mouthwatering dishes wafting from the open kitchen. The atmosphere changes slightly from that in the hotel foyer: at TOKii, there’s upbeat music, lower lighting and a generally more buzzy feel. The welcoming staff greet you with a smile, and are ready to take you on a culinary journey of tasty, well presented dishes.
A big draw of this Japanese restaurant is the private, yet not solitary, seating: the space uses dark wood dividers between various tables to give the feel of privacy, while still being open enough to not feel tucked away – and so you can see the plates of delightful Japanese cuisine as they make their way to your table. The menu offers a selection of bites, skewers, sides, hot and cold dishes, and sushi. The focus is on sharing plates at TOKii and the staff recommend at least six or so dishes.
First to arrive was the shrimp tempura, selected from the hot dishes section. The prawns were large, juicy and soft, encased in a satisfyingly crispy batter. And the ginger sauce it is served with? Both the smell and taste were enchanting. Similar to the opposing textures in the prawns, the buttermilk fried chicken also boasted a crispy coating encasing soft meat. TOKii has a wide selection of sashimi, nigiri and maki rolls too, each expertly sliced and prepared in the open kitchen; given the deliciousness of the shrimp tempura hot dish, I chose shrimp tempura for my sushi choice and wasn’t disappointed.
I highly recommend the pork belly skewers, served teriyaki style. The meat, again, is so juicy and well cooked, while the grilled flavour comes through alongside the delicious sweet sauce. The caramelised black cod is also divine – the meat of the fish melts in your mouth, and the charred sweetness really is something special. You won’t be able to hold back on the corn rice either; the use of chopsticks was the only thing stopping me shovelling it into my mouth quick time. For something a little different, the lamb rump is a solid choice; like all the meats served at TOKii, it is tender and flavoursome, and the green miso goes really well. All dishes are presented with a flourish, and this is even more true with the lamb as the crispy noodles create an eye-catching, almost art-like statement.
To finish, there is a carefully curated selection of desserts. I opted for the chocolate fondant, served with matcha ice cream. Like the rest of the meal, the flavours worked in harmony, and the silky warm chocolate was a suitably indulgent end to the meal.
In the restaurant, the only drinks available are wine, sake and beer (served in a fresh cold glass each time); however, don’t you worry, a whole dedicated bar of signature cocktails awaits just a few steps away…
The Malt Bar and Lounge
Take a short amble down the hallway, and you’ll find yourself in the intimate Malt Bar and Lounge. The unbridled luxury continues in this space, this time transporting you to a more old world-type bar. The focal point of the space is the bar itself, backed by a wall of unique spirits, used to create a series of totally bespoke cocktails.
Now, I’ll get onto the drinks in a second, but the menu itself is something to savour. It’s presented as a proper book: the look, the feel, the hero ingredient image. Hidden between the pages, you’ll find a postcard, with special cocktails – like the rest of the bespoke cocktails weren’t already impressive enough – themed around their Traveller series. We tried one of these travel-themed cocktails, the Kyoto margarita, and we can testify, it most definitely packs a punch. Not only is the liquor strong, but the salt on the rim is replaced by senchua pepper, giving it a real kick. Other cocktails we highly recommend include the sweet and bubbly Momo (it even comes with a macaron!); the tart, rum-based Yuzo, and the refreshing Shiso, which comes complete with an edible sugared leaf atop the glass.
If you anticipate all the eating and drinking will leave you unable to venture far from the hotel afterwards, why not treat yourself to a stay at the Prince Akatoki? The alluring aromas continue past the restaurant and the hotel lobby; every hallway in the building smells divine, including the one that leads to the rooms. Behind closed doors, the incredible hospitality continues and you’ll honestly want for nothing – and if you do, the staff will be obliging to sort it for you.
Prince Akatoki pride themselves on anticipating the needs of guests before they even know it themselves; traditional Japanese hospitality. All the expected five-star amenities are available in the room, and then some. There is even a TV in the bath!! Room service orders are made via the TV in the main room, though. Another lovely touch is the yukata (Japanese bathrobe) available alongside the other bathrobes. There are even instructions on how to wear it properly.
Akatoki means ‘dawn’ and symbolises new beginnings, which is exactly what the hotel, restaurant and bar strive for. They bring together spaces for quiet mindfulness, whilst simultaneously sharing the best of Japan’s cuisine, hospitality and style with the rest of the world.