For many, Nobu needs no introduction; named after its empire-building chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa, the juggernaut restaurant (and now hotel chain) is lodged in fans’ pleasure centres for its iconic Japanese-Peruvian fusion fare (hello, miso-glazed black cod and yellowtail sashimi with jalapeño) and as a global populariser of pared-back aesthetics. Nobu Hotel London Portman Square stays true to these core characteristics in a fantastically central London location, with a few decadent distinctions: balconies for most rooms (and a huge wraparound terrace for top-floor suites), a serious Pilates reformer studio, gin terrace and access to private Portman Square. Plus beautifully Marie Kondo’ed rooms, glossy-as-a-bento-box hang-out spaces and much more to spark joy.
Double rooms from £419.00, including tax at 20 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast, but the à la carte (served in the lounge) has goji berry- and bee-pollen-strewn picks for the health-conscious and heartier Japanese-inflected options (a full English with miso-baked beans, yuzu crab Benedict).
Want to borrow a little of Nobu’s star power for a get-together? Book the vast, 600-holding ballroom or the glass-walled, view-blessed private dining room.
At the hotel
Spa and juice bar, gym with Pilates reformer studio, lounge, concierge, free high-speed WiFi, laundry, actress to private Portman Square gardens. In rooms: 4K-resolution TV, Nespresso machine, minibar with a curated selection of snacks and wellness kits, yukatas, Grown Alchemist bath products and a fabric steamer (on request).
Our favourite rooms
While the styles they’re best associated with diverge wildly, it turns out that Japanese designers and William Morris have a common belief that everything in your home should be beautiful or useful. Each of the hotel’s rooms and suites is elegant in its restrained minimalism, but calligraphic curlicues of paint on large canvases, sleek kyūsu tea sets, sculptural lighting and other clever details keep them from looking austere. You don’t have to check into the most expensive suite here to have a balcony overlooking Marylebone and beyond, but the vast wraparound terraces attached to the penthouse suites are crying out for starlit soirées.
Get to know Pilates’ fancier cousin in the huge basement gym’s studio, where there’s row upon row – plus a private room – filled with top-of-the-line Pilates reformer machines. And, if you find all of those pulleys and harnesses a little intimidating, there’s an open-round-the-clock space filled with every conceivable bit of TechnoGym equipment on the lower level. Or try one of the spa rituals, which combine stretching and massage, or maybe a fragrant facial or herbal body treatment in one of the three Zen treatment rooms before rehydrating in the juice bar.
Embrace the hotel’s clutter-free philosophy and pack smartly and succinctly for your stay.
Some of the Deluxe Balcony rooms are accessible.
Pets of any size can stay and they’re allowed on the terrace and in the lounge, but not the restaurant or bar. They mustn’t be left alone in your room and kept on a leash in public areas. See more pet-friendly hotels in London.
All ages are welcome, but this sophisticated city stay caters more to adult palates. There’s a special kids’ bento box served in the restaurant and suites can fit a family of three or four.
The terrace is a pleasant space with a view out to the leafy square. Or, if you’re sitting in the restaurant, slide into one of the banquettes by the window – they’re well set for surreptitious celeb-spotting.
Either go for sleek sculptural minimalism or embrace the restaurant’s see-and-be-seen; this is the place to pull off one of Rei Kawakubo’s more outré pieces.
Way back in 1987, when Nobu Matsuhisa opened his first restaurant in LA, how could he have known that marinating black cod in miso would result in the most cult dish since sliced toast? And, who would have thought Robert De Niro would have been so instrumental in bringing it to the – relative – masses? It’s been quite a journey for this sweet yet meaty main, but it remains a favourite and it’s present and correct on the menu among other Nobu favourites, say the yellowtail with jalapeño, or ponzu-splashed beef-tenderloin tataki. For the greatest hits, hand the reins to the kitchen with the omakase meal or order up the glossy – and generously filled – bento box at lunchtime. Or try an unctuous wagyu steak, pick-and-mix skewers and tempura pieces. Or a row of king crab- and lobster-filled tacos. Along one side of the restaurant runs a sushi counter where chefs busily assemble nigiri, maki rolls and sashimi. And, in the lounge you can dine on a menu of sandos, burgers, poke bowls and small plates such as calamari with yuzu.
The bar is sultrily lit using bespoke lamps wrapped with Japanese book-binding paper; glossy surfaces, leather banquettes and brassy accents give the space a luxe feel. The list of adventurous cocktails feels well travelled with drinks such as the Yamato Champagne Cocktail with Veuve Clicquot, Lillet Blanc and Suntory Haku vodka; and Ashes to Ashes with Bushmills Black Bush Irish whiskey, Aperol, vermouth and mezcal. Or, there’s a purist-pleasing list of authentic sakes from Hokusetsu Brewery that range from those with cotton-candy or marzipan notes for casual sippers or rare selections for the connoisseur. You can also take drinks on the terrace, where the theme changes according to the season.
Lunch is served from 12 noon to 2.30pm, Monday to Friday, till 3pm on weekends. Dinner runs from 6pm to 10.30pm from Monday to Thursday, till 11pm on Friday and Saturday and till 10pm on Sunday.
You can enjoy cult Japanese cuisine in your room round the clock.
Set just by the titular Portman Square (a surprisingly serene place for central London), Nobu is just behind Selfridges within charging distance of London’s main shopping arteries.
London Heathrow is the closest international hub, a 45-minute drive from the hotel. Gatwick, Luton and Stansted are all just over an hour’s drive away, and the hotel can help to arrange transfers to and from all of them, on request and for an extra charge.
Marble Arch and Bond Street are the closest Tube stations to the hotel – each is around a five-minute walk away. Both are stops on the Central Line and the latter connects to the Jubilee Line, both of which will zip you around London (invest in an Oyster Card for one-tap exploring). From Gatwick, you can catch the Gatwick Express train to London Victoria then travel to Bond Street via the Victoria and Jubilee lines. The Heathrow Express arrives at Paddington, from where you can catch the Bakerloo and Jubilee lines to the hotel.
Ditch driving for Tube rides, find-the-lay-of-the-land bus journeys and good old-fashioned pavement pounding – truly a speedier way to traverse this traffic-jam-prone area. The hotel’s in the Congestion Charge zone, so you’ll need to pay £15 each day you take your wheels for a spin, but the hotel can get you a preferential rate at the NCP carpark just next door.
Worth getting out of bed for
Drop your finger at random in a London guidebook and the chances are you’ll be pointing at something that’s a short walk from the hotel; it’s location, set behind Selfridges, steps from bustling Oxford Street, buffered by Mayfair, Marylebone, Hyde Park and newly cool Paddington. First, settle into the hotel with some stretching and toning in the Pilates studio, or a divinely scented spa ritual. Or explore the wonderfully fused international flavours of the cocktails in the bar or lounge. Then take the circuitous route from the hotel to hit all of London’s high notes. Hyde Park has the Serpentine galleries, pedalos to hire and Kensington Palace to the west. Then swoop down Park Lane (pausing to pay deference to the original Nobu at 19 Old Park Lane), to promenade through Green Park and take a tour of the Queen’s London digs. If you start to get peckish, stop by supermarket for the affluent Fortnum & Mason, to treat yourself to a very refined picnic. Then you’ll come to Trafalgar Square, home to both the National Gallery and National Portrait Gallery, as well as famed art-topped plinths. Swerve Leicester Square’s somewhat touristy attractions in favour of a visit to the Japan Centre, where you can recreate the Nobu look at home. Stop for taiyaki (fish-shaped pastries filled with sweet bean paste) in Chinatown, muse on the prints at the Photographers’ Gallery in Soho and if it’s after dark then see what’s happening at G-A-Y or the Top Secret Comedy Club. Otherwise, head north to the British Museum to while away the rest of the day delving into the past. If you’ve arrived with kids, Madame Tussauds and the Sherlock Holmes Museum in Marylebone will keep them entertained; and if you’ve arrived without, spend a cultured afternoon at the Wallace Collection and ornate Edwardian bookshop Daunt, before picking up candles from the world’s oldest candlemakers (Cire Trudon), luxe eats from Attilus Caviar and La Fromagerie, and all-natural beauty products from Content.
Don’t sleep on the outpost of one of the world’s most-chattered-about restaurants downstairs (well, you literally will be, because your room’s upstairs, but otherwise we heartily recommend stopping in for sushi and artfully married Japanese and Peruvian dishes). It’s in good company, as this part of London has rave-review-collecting restaurants. For serious wining and dining, Mayfair is home to no-expense-spared eateries such as Hakkasan, Park Chinois and Sexy Fish. Village-y Marylebone to the north caters for those with worldly tastes, with Peruvian Pachamama, Jikoni’s ‘no-borders’ cuisine that crosses continents, glam Grecian Opso and Michelin-starred Italian Locanda Locatelli. Also close by is madcap French-owned Italian Circolo Popolare, where verdure hangs from the ceiling, cocktails arrive in mugs shaped like jugs and pastas are liberally tossed through wheels of cheese; and Six By Nico, where a tasting menu that changes its theme every six weeks comes in at under £40 – near unheard of bargain in this ritzy neck of the woods.
La Relais de Venise has only had a couple items on its menu since 1959 – a salad topped with mustard vinaigrette to start; and steak, frites and a special sauce – with some diversity when it comes to desserts. But, after perfecting it over the years, the pandemic forced them to bring about something new: a baguette filled with – wait for it – steak, frites and special sauce. Well, if it ain’t broke, fix it a little bit.
It may have a mock-Tudor exterior, but on the inside, Clarette is very of the now, with powder-puff-pink cocktail chairs, splashes of scarlet and navy paint and walls hung with modern art. French wines are their specialty, and the menu also has Gallic leanings. Just steps from Oxford Street, Fam feels very far removed from the city’s busiest stretch, with its cosy feel, vinyl-lined walls and friendly cocktail-slinging barkeeps.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this, Nobu’s next step in taking over the world, just behind Oxford Street and decluttered their own homes to achieve similar levels of stylish orderliness, a full account of their Japanese-fusion break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Nobu Hotel London Portman Square…
The Japanese concept of ‘ma’ asks you to examine the negative space in design, art, poetry, even your own life, because when you start with a void of meaning, you create your own. And if you’re wondering what this has to do with a chain of high-end restaurants, turned into a global empire with the help of Robert De Niro – well, we’ll fill in the blanks. It’s the kind of clear-headed concept that led Make Architects and David Collins design studio to fill in the blank canvas of Nobu Hotel London Portman Square. The everything-in-its-place rooms deftly balance contemplative space, mood-lifting light and restful quiet hues, with deliberate focus-your-attention details: lantern-shaped bronze lamps, simple yet effective minimalist artworks, beautifully crafted Japanese tea sets, yukatas and dainty nod-to-nature plants. And many rooms and all suites come with balconies or expansive terraces too. They’ve allowed a crack team of artisans to channel their creativity into the public spaces too: Dernier & Hamlyn have created auspicious illumination with their bespoke lighting, freehand glass-blower Jeremy Maxwell Wintrebert floated a cloud lamp over the reception, and a kinetic sculpture by Ivan Black moves mesmerically over the lounge amid other wonders made real here. But, there’s a deep sense of tradition too, even if it’s one that was born in an LA restaurant in 1987 – chef Nobuyuki Matsuhisa’s still-wow-worthy cuisine, with its global crosshatching of flavours, still lures in crowds with taste; and after you can sip sakes exclusive to Nobu from Sado Island’s Hokusetsu Brewery and cocktails laced with Roku gin and Suntory whisky and vodka. Frankly, you couldn’t find a more positive place to find meaning in your negative space.
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