If you’re searching for family-friendly restaurants in London, don’t sleep on Benihana. Turns out I’ve been dozing on this joint since way back (let’s not count the years), when I used to visit the Swiss Cottage branch.
I had fond memories of Japanese egg fried rice and men in tall hats tossing knives in the air. So it was with a thrill of anticipation that I set out to Benihana Chelsea for our London Bloggers Evening last week.
Laura of London Baby (below with me and fellow Mothers & Shakers member Nomita) had organised the event** and even though I relish a babe-free night out, all I kept thinking was, ‘I can’t wait to come back with Ezra and Jed!’
Benihana Chelsea is rather swankier than I’d expected. It’s the kind of spot that makes you want to slip into something a little more Bond Girl and take a slow, elegant walk down the curved staircase.
My grand entrance was marred somewhat by the fact I’d managed to leave my handbag in the black taxi on the way in!
Luckily I had my essentials (wallet, phone, keys) in my pockets and while I shared my sob story with sympathetic bloggers, one of our hosts Dieter slipped a delicious blackberry martini in my hand. Totally picked me up!
We were taken on a tour of the restaurant, starting from the spacious lounge area, to another sweeping staircase (often used for fashion shows), and up to a curtained-off alcove that doubles as a DJ booth.
We explored the main dining rooms (8 per table), private room (seats 12) and the inner sanctum where celebrity guests are ushered in and out through a secret entrance. I’m not allowed to reveal who, but let’s just say I need to be hanging out at Benihana Chelsea more often!
It was great catching up with some of my favourite London bloggers (several of their reviews added below) and family entertainment specialists.
Lights, Camera, Teppanyaki!
Benihana is the epitome of dinner theatre — every table is treated to the spectacle of a chef who not only cooks fresh food from scratch before your eyes, but juggles instruments, cracks jokes and sets things on fire.
The kids would love the show, although I could also imagine having a giggle here with the Mister on one of our Dates with Dads.
The heady aromas coupled with the sights and sounds of fish, meat and vegetables sizzling on the Hibachi table grill create a truly sensational experience.
And everything tasted great. We feasted on Nigiri sushi, Japanese onion soup, crunchy Benihana salad with ginger dressing, and their famous Hibachi menu featuring prawn, courgette and ‘onion volcano’, then rice, black cod (ooh yeah), tender steak and vegetables with dips. Check out the full Benihana menu.
Just when we thought we couldn’t fit in any more, dessert arrived in the form of an ice cream tempura. Oh My Yum.
While we ate, Dieter told us the inspirational story of Rocky Aoki, a Japanese-American immigrant and former wrestler who opened a tiny restaurant in New York in 1964 and turned it into a world-wide brand. He pioneered Teppan-yaki aka ‘dinner as performance’!
One of the evening’s highlights was when Benihana staff gave their birthday treatment to the only guy in our group — complete with balloons, hat, cake and singing. Happy Random Birthday Jonathan!
I’m thinking of bringing Ezra here for his 8th birthday, as it’s not a bad package at £12.50 per child.
We had a wonderful evening and to cap it off, just before dinner a Benihana hostess appeared by my side and, without fanfare, placed my lost handbag on my shoulder. The taxi driver had returned it!
A happy ending to my story, a brilliant night all round.
Special thanks to Laura, the Benihana team and to the lovely black cabbie who returned my bag, bless you.
More Benihana Chelsea Reviews by:
**complimentary event, all opinions strictly mine