2012 sees Zuma restaurant in London’s Knightsbridge celebrate its first momentous decade. Since opening its doors in 2002, Zuma is a name that has not only become synonymous as one of the capital’s landmark destination venues, but has also been the launch pad for a global expansion of award winning restaurants. The creation of Zuma was the vision of one man, Chef Rainer Becker. Becker’s Zuma concept was born during his six years spent as Executive Chef at the Park Hyatt Hotel in Tokyo. During this time, having immersed himself in Japanese customs and researched the very traditions that permeate every sector of contemporary Japanese culture, Becker developed an innate affinity with Japanese cuisine and its respect for ritual, detail and season.
In Japan, where each restaurant celebrates one style of cooking, e.g. tempura, sushi, yakatori, etc., it was izakaya – the more informal dining experience with its relaxed energy and ambience – that Becker grew to love. “I spent 6 years in Tokyo and had a very definite idea about what I wanted Zuma to be. For me, this was simply bringing all the elements I enjoy from a dining experience under one roof ” explains Rainer. “I prefer a fun, informal dining experience and wanted Zuma to have an open lounge area and bar around the dining area. This, along with the food which is designed for sharing, creates a very relaxed energy.”
In a bizarre twist of fate, a haircut appointment one day in London resulted in a chance introduction to businessman, Arjun Waney. The two men immediately connected and after further meetings, a hugely successful partnership was formed that, to date, would see the opening of 9 restaurants across the globe. It is the friendship and respect between both men that has created the unique energy of Zuma. Although the restaurants are located as far afield as Miami to South East Asia, the small company identity is still very strong and touches every area of the business. The success of Zuma is testament to the relationship that exists between Rainer and Arjun.
Their first collaboration saw Zuma London open its doors in 2002. Immediately popular, the restaurant proved a huge success and still retains a loyal following of local clients, international travellers and has become the chosen restaurant of many visiting artists from film, music and media.
The cuisine is designed to share at the table and comes from three kitchens – the main kitchen, the sushi counter and the robata grill. Indeed dishes such as thinly sliced seabass with yuzu, truffle oil and salmon roe and spicy beef tenderloin with sesame, red chilli and sweet soy have become signature originals and their huge popularity ensures they remain on the menu today.
However, it was the demand for the dishes from the robata grill that inspired the formation of a second operation called Roka.”I wanted to increase the dishes from the grill section, but still had to maintain the balance from the other kitchens on the menu. Given the popularity of Zuma, we decided to open a separate venue focusing more on robatayaki cooking, but with the grill being the central focus of the restaurant” explains Rainer. Roka Charlotte Street opened in 2004, Roka Hong Kong in 2008 and Roka Canary Wharf in 2009.
Zuma has gone from strength to strength and its huge international following has already seen outposts open in Hong Kong (2007), Istanbul (2008), Dubai (2008), Miami (2010) and Bangkok (2011). With the next opening scheduled in Beirut later in 2012 and immediate plans to expand in the USA and UAE. Zuma’s success has not only achieved global recognition, but also international industry and consumer awards and accolades.
This 10th year anniversary saw it host the lunch for the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurants, a popular choice for some of the world’s greatest chefs when visiting the UK.
Chef Rainer Becker’s initial vision of Zuma has proven over the past decade to be limitless in its cultural appeal and timeless in its ethos. The restaurant remains as popular today as it was on the day its doors first opened.
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May 22, 2012
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