Twitter Facebook RSS Feed
No Sacred Cows  
Toby Young
Thursday 12th December 2002


ES Magazine - 13th December 2002

The continuing reign of Nobu at the top of London's food chain--both literally and metaphorically--is one of life's great mysteries. To begin with, it's been open for five years and most hot restaurants go off the boil after about 10 minutes. Then there's the fact that it's part of a chain, something you'd normally associate with a fast food restaurant. The attempt to muddy the waters by calling the branch in Docklands "Ubon" (Nobu backwards) is about as subtle as calling a new branch of Deep Pan Pizza "Azzip Nap Peed". Finally, there's its proximity to the Met Bar. For any normal restaurant, being housed in the same hotel as the Met Bar would be the kiss of death. This once fashionable nightspot is so far past its sell-by date not even Jordan goes there any more. Yet Nobu retains its culinary crown. How does it pull this off?

One thing's for sure: it isn't the food. The Japanese fare on offer at Nobu is undoubtedly very good, but it's not nearly as spectacular as it used to be. You get the impression that when a new branch of Nobu is opened the owners bring in their best chef to establish its reputation, then replace them once it's built up a loyal following, much like the owners of a new Indian takeaway in Bradford. As you enter the restaurant on Old Park Lane, you're greeted by a framed photograph of Nobu Matsuhisa, the celebrated chef who gave his name to the chain, but I don't suppose he's set foot in the place for years.

It would make more sense to stick up a photo of his business partner, the actor Robert De Niro. What Bruce Willis, Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger failed to do for Planet Hollywood, De Niro has succeeded in doing for Nobu. By lending his name to all 12 branches of the chain, the two-time Oscar winner has helped brand it as a glamorous, celebrity-filled hang out, the Burger King of the Jet Set. Whenever I go into the London branch, which is about once a year, I half-expect to see him there, huddled in a corner with Naomi Campbell. The movie star's interest in black supermodels is as legendary as Mr Matsuhisa's predilection for black cod.

This is a fantasy, of course. Nobu is the last place De Niro would bring one of his girlfriends for a discreet liaison. But then, he doesn't have to. Thanks to Boris Becker's three-minute knee-trembler in 1999, Nobu will forever be associated in the public mind with superstar sex. That episode may have ruined the reputation of the ex-Wimbledon champion, but from Nobu's point of view it was the PR equivalent of a grand slam. When I was there last week several pairs of eyes were sweeping the restaurant's nether regions, hoping to catch some celebrity emerging from a broom cupboard with a kiss-and-tell girl.

Unfortunately, December isn't the best month for spotting celebs at Nobu. It's the "office outing" season in which managing directors like to treat their staff to expensive Christmas lunches before jetting off to Val d'Isére for 10 days. There seemed to be a gaggle of red-faced secretaries at every table, knocking back the sake and shrieking with laughter as they examined the exquisite little morsels of raw fish on their plates. I don't think I've ever seen so many Burberry outfits in one place. Their bosses kept their heads down, hoping not to be spotted by anyone from the golf club.

Perhaps the key to Nobu's continuing success is the prodigious expense. One of the few things I remember from studying economics at university is that there's a certain category of goods for which the demand curve is upward curving: the more expensive they are, the more people clamour for them. Presumably, high-end Japanese food falls into this bracket. People assume that if they're paying over £50 for half a dozen pieces of uncooked fish, then it must be pretty damn good. Fiendish little buggers, these Japs.

[ FIXED LINK ] Bookmark and Share

Twitter Free schools top the league tables – again link  (2 hours ago)


The shocking truth about Jordan Peterson by Wesley Yang -
The intellectual dark web by Bari Weiss -
How identity politics is harming the sciences by Heather Mac Donald -
The fall of the German Empire by Ross Douthat -
How Tom Wolfe became Tom Wolfe by Michael Lewis - Vanity Fair
The neuro-diversity case for free speech by Geoffrey Miller -
The Age of Outrage by Jonathan Haidt -
The Warlock Hunt by Claire Berlinski -
Is classical liberalism conservative? by Yarom Hazony -
The Implosion of Western Liberalism by Patrick Lee Miller -
The Eton of the East End - Daily Mail
The reactionary temptation by Andrew Sullivan -
The book that scandalised New York intellectuals by Louis Menand -
To understand Britain today, look to the 17th Century by Adrian Wooldridge -
The crisis in France by Christopher Caldwell -
A Visit to Michaela School by Patrick Alexander -
Why parenting may not matter by Brian Boutwell -
Trump Establishment's Cultural Significance Explained by Michael Wolff -
Branching histories of the 2016 referendum by Dominic Cummings -
Putin's Real Long Game by Molly K McKew -
The Flight 93 Election by Publius Decius Mus -
How the education gap is tearing politics apart by David Runciman -
What's wrong with identity politics by Graeme Archer -
Grammars and the grain of truth by Jonathan Porter
Anti-Brexit: Britain's new class war by John O'Sullivan -
The English Revolt by Robert Tombs -
Democracies end when they are too democratic by Andrew Sullivan -
Human beings really are making progress by Steven Pinker -
What ISIS really wants by Graeme Wood -
A society ripe for Submission by Douglas Murray -
Why I'm a Conservative Teacher by Jonathan Porter -
Corbyn's Inconvenient Truth – He wanted the IRA to win -
Why I've become Tory scum by Tony Parsons -
Inside Westminster's free school -
Robert Conquest obit -
Jeremy Corbyn is not an anti-Semite – it's so much worse than that -


Andrew Lilico
Andrew Sullivan
Arts and Letters Daily
Bagehot's Notebook
BBC News
BBC Sport
Benedict Brogan
Brendan O'Neill
Bruce Anderson
Coffee House
Conservative Home
Damian McBride
Damian Thompson
Dan Hodges
Daniel Hannon
Ed West
Frank Furedi
Guido Fawkes
Harry Phibbs
Iain Dale
Iain Martin
James Delingpole
James Wolcott
Joe Murphy
John Rentoul
Labour List
Mark Steyn
Matt Drudge
Mehdi Hasan
Melanie Phillips
Michael Wolff
Nick Cohen
Nick Robinson
Nikki Finke
Paul Waugh
Peter Hitchens
Political Betting
Right Minds
Rob Long
Rod Liddle
Sophy Ridge
Stephen Pollard
The Arts Desk
The Corner
The Daily Beast
The First Post
The Omnivore
The Onion
Tim Shipman
Tim Stanley
Tom Shone


AA Gill
Aidan Hartley
Allison Pearson
Allister Heath
AO Scott
Boris Johnson
Charles Moore
Cosmo Landesman
Daniel Finkelstein
David Brooks
Fraser Nelson
George Monbiot
Giles Coren
Henry Winter
James Delingpole
Jan Moir
Janan Ganesh
Jeremy Clarkson
Jeremy Warner
Jim White
Jonathan Freedland
Lloyd Evans
Manohla Dargis
Martin Samuel
Mary Ann Sieghart
Matthew d'Ancona
Matthew Norman
Maureen Dowd
Michiko Kakutani
Owen Jones
Patrick O'Flynn
Paul Krugman
Peter Bradshaw
Peter Oborne
Philip Collins
Polly Toynbee
Quentin Letts
Rachel Johnson
Rod Liddle
Roy Greenslade
Tim Montgomerie
Trevor Kavanagh
UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on

  • Buy the book on

  • UK Book Cover

  • Buy the book on

  • Buy the book on

  • Audio Book Cover

  • Buy the audio book from
    Whole Story Audio
  • DVD Cover

  • Buy the DVD from

  • Buy the DVD from

  • IMdb Page on the film