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WLC Eats: Kioku by Endo

Douglas Blyde heads to Kioku by Endo where he find a “particularly intriguing” wine list, a large collection of sakés and “unexpected heartiness” in light-looking dishes. 

“He is a third-generation sushi master, following in the footsteps of both his father and grandfather,” wrote Melina Keays of Kioku’s culinary director, Endo Kazutoshi in Wallpaper.

Square Meal, meanwhile, noted its name “is a Japanese term meaning ‘memory’, with the restaurant based around Endo’s most significant life experiences,” although it was not explicitly clear how these moments translated to lunch.


Although the scheme is not perfect given that its intrusive, square-backed chairs perpetually interrupt service flow, while the otherwise attractive bar counter is basically hidden, Kioku’s interior by Pirajean Lees shows more care than their problematic initial work on the salons of sibling site, 20 Berkeley (now NIJŪ). Twelve times the covers of Kazutoshi’s outstanding White City omakase counter are fitted into, and beyond, the bright rafters at The OWO in Whitehall.

This comprises the dining room, where an upright piano, played nightly, rises from a chequered oak, then crimson tiled floor, an eight-seat private island in a conservatory facing the kitchen, a terrace with views to St. Stephen’s Tower and Horse Guards, where soldiers “faint” on warmer days according to the observant head sommelier, Merlin Ramos, and the private dining room with a moon mural. “Snipers” were once stationed above this, according to the charming waiter Wilson Marques, who also clarified that the egg timer-like symbol printed on menus and inlaid in tables signifies “infinity”, which is a valiant ambition for any London restaurant. Beyond a heavy curtain six floors down is Kioku’s listening bar, where records, including those from Kazutoshi’s collection, given he is an enthusiastic DJ, amplify the enjoyment of sakes released from a dedicated safe.


His first name inspired by a small falcon, Merlin Ramos was born in Dundee and raised in Ireland, Sussex, Dorset, France, and Spain. As per his exacting work at HUMO, which is also under the Creative Restaurant Group’s parapluie, Ramos, focuses on grape variety. Subsequent ordering is from light to rich, with further sections illustrated with lithographs drawn from antique books. These include an octopus in pursuit of a man for “Island and Coastal”, with a fanciful compilation of meringue-like mountainous peaks for “High Altitude”. A particularly earnest fowl leads into “Ducks Out Of Water”, being “wines made from grapes native to one country, yet grown in another”. Thinking of “Volcanic”, it is worth pointing out that Ramos, whose palate appears to favour bold, direct, mineral wines, even sourced mineral water with explosive origins.

Available by the Spiegelau Definition, options by the glass range from a 2022 Cretan Kotsifali by Aori at £14 per 175ml, to £130 for Clos Erasmus’ 2021 Priorat. By the bottle, sparklers include what Ramos calls the “gorgeously playful” grower champagne, JL Vergnon Hautes Mottes 2013 (£250), and the zero dosage Austrian, Österreichischer Chardonnay Sekt 2015 (Ebner-Ebenauer) at £320. There is an evolving collection of Pol Roger, incorporating Blanc de Blancs in addition to Cuvée Winston Churchill, named in honour of the regular boss of Britain and, therefore, this former war office, whom Ramos’ great grandfather, Sir Henry Rushbury, keeper of the Royal Academy, met.

A dozen genuinely interesting wines reside at the £55 entry point, including Vachnadziani Mtsvane from Kakheti 2021, filed under “Native and Rarest Grape Varieties”, while at the top end, Joseph Drouhin’s 1995 Clos des Mouches Rouge shows an eager five times mark-up at £1,100 compared to the 2020 white iteration at roughly double market value (£390). However, given the Raffles branded residences within this municipal palace veer from approximately £4-20million, while the smallest hotel room will set you back £950 in the middle of the week without breakfast, we doubt most guests will baulk when presenting their Centurion cards in recognition of the first-rate performance of Ramos and Wilson.

Particularly intriguing bottles include Chanterêves Bourgogne Aligoté Les Chagniots 2020 from conjugal winemaking team, Tomoko Kuriyama and Guillaume Bott, the 2022 Trousseau from Californian producer, Arnot-Roberts (£150), and 2021 Sea Of Love Pinot Blanc from Blackbook Winery, being an American producer crafting wine on and from UK soil, beyond a cubist label evocative of Ramos’ own art (£89). Producer libraries, meanwhile, include the crus of Produttori del Barbaresco, A substantial sweet selection includes Istvan Szepzy’s 2016 Szamorodni (£203/50cl).

Ten sakes are available as 90ml pours (neither saké nor mead are subject to the weights and measures act)  including the spontaneously fermented Hanatomoe Nature x Nature White, Yamahai Kijoshu (£25). These are drawn from what has been billed as Europe’s largest such collection, kept at the 25 seat Kioku Bar a carriage lift ride down. This mighty accumulation by sake samurai Natsuki Kikuya, is managed by saké sommelier Anthony Yukio. Says Kikuya, “My approach is to introduce the diverse and growing sake category, not only by the polishing ratio or designation, but by the intention and ambitions of producers, ranging from those who are reviving ancient rice varieties and deploying wooden fermentation vats, to sparkling, and low ABV styles.” Although this bar warrants an article in its own right, standout options include a trio of 01 Special Editions from “God of sake” (says its importer), Noguchi Naohiko, including the 2018 at less than double retail (£969).

Ramos, who resembles a kempt Vincent van Gogh, is aided by head sommelier Yelba Pérez Saballos (previously Rockliffe Hall, then HUMO), while Richard Biro purveys Kioku’s cocktails, including the mezcal-seasoned “Padron & Shiso,” which migrated from the group’s Nipperkin at NIJŪ.


Dishes are executed by executive chef, George Gkoregias, former head chef of ROKA. These began with an improbably delicate ceramic bowl evoking un-scrunched paper in which tagliatelle made from cuttlefish was richly coated in nori pesto, topped with earthy edamame, and accented with sprightly elderflower. To cut through the unexpected heartiness of the light-looking dish, Ramos chose an intense, incisive duo of Alvarinhos. The almost entirely black of label Mixtura vinho verde comprised old vine, organic, pergola-grown grapes from Portugal raised in Austrian oak foudres, then concrete eggs at the Spanish winery of Gutier Seijo Otero. Given Ramos enjoys the interplay between wines, its flinty notes, which he likened, understandably, to “Grand Cru Chablis”, segued into the even more monolithic Granito Cru 2021 by Luis Seabra. Again subject to native yeasts, but even more exotic Slovenian and Hungarian casks, it required bold aeration, yielding crushed oyster shell and even tropical fruit facets which pleasantly distracted from the strident pesto.

Although we will return to try sushi made with rice from Kazutoshi’s own farm in Fukuoka, today’s seven-strong sashimi selection, including fine, sweet scallops, so harmonious with the house blend of soy sauces, was excellent, excepting the earthiness of trout, which we suspect was raised in a busy chalk stream. With these, Ramos prescribed another vinous double act, being the steely, amusingly named Jura-esque “Vin John” 2018 from South African producer, John Bouwer, whose motto is “winemaking is a feeling, an emotional act.” Despite Ramos being suspicious of the grape, here matured under a veil of flor and unfortified, the Sauvignon Blanc, which could perplex a blind taster, was the most memorable lunch wine. This segued into Abel Mendoza’s Malvasia, and Viura-led “5 Varietals” from Rioja’s Cantabrian mountains, subject to relentless bâtonnage. The luxuriously textured results, especially when brought closer to room temperature, dovetailed best with the sashimi.

With the meal’s second Italo-Japanese dish, Merlin chose “a sunset in a glass”. With a golden colour echoing that of the very thick, golden skins of chashu pork stuffed ravioli, Panoramico “O” Blanco, “O” in this case standing for Oxidative, contained a formative portion of botrytised grapes. Nutty, natty, and saline, it was one of the first pairings “which clicked” for Ramos when designing his opening pairings at Kioku. It brought something akin to jubilance to the dish’s broth which had a subtle richness impossible to achieve by shortcuts.

Finally, red rice-rich rokko miso baba with hazelnut ice cream and nutmeg chimed with a novel straw wine from Luxembourg (L&R KOX), which brought lavish Alphonso mango notes to compensate for the dish’s absence of rum or similar spirit.

Last Word

Ramos’ experimentation with pairings and service temperatures, are, he shared, recorded in a “black book”. Like at HUMO, this creative and forensic sommelier has amassed esoteric bottles backed by strong narratives. As his budget to accrue ever finer bottles increases, we look forward to seeing how his list expands at the upper echelons given guests and residents of this affluent, moated bastion should not be prevented from inputting their fortunes into UK hospitality. We ponder, too, if such guests can grow to truly love the Italo-Japanese aspects of Kioku, or whether, with his name over this door, they will instead demand an experience more aligned to the extraordinary, continuously refined dishes of Endo at The Rotunda…

Best for:

  • Views
  • Wines with/from personalities
  • Sake “Bible”
  • Terrace and cigar balcony

Value: 93, Size: 93, Range: 95, Originality: 96, Experience: 93; Total: 94

Kioku by Endo – 6th Floor, The OWO, 2 Whitehall Pl, London, SW1A 2BD; 020 3327 3692;

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