Because of the location of the By Book or By Cook offices, we’re often at a loss for good places to eat. We wander the streets of Covent Garden, trying to sniff out a decent dinner between the Prets and the tourists and the bad mime artists. People shuffle around the office, weak from the hunger, microwaving ready meals for their dinner, hunched over a day-old sandwich or scarfing leftover baked goods from the office feeder. Some days, we go so hungry, such is the trauma of our search, that we just start ripping up books and eating them.
I jest, of course. We are surrounded by a wealth of marvellous new places to eat, and consequently we are all about a half a stone heavier than we’d like and in a perpetual state of confusion about where to go. There doesn’t seem to be a day that goes by without a new pop up or launch or restaurant opening up within a 10 minute walk of the office (where do they all fit?) But this makes it all the more exciting when you find a brand new place in the centre of town that makes most of the other brand new places in the centre of town look like a service station Wimpy. Sticks ‘n’ Sushi is one of those places, because these guys know what they’re doing.
There’s actually been a venue in Wimbledon for a couple of years, but obviously nobody ever goes to Wimbledon, so now it’s on a proper London map (by which I mean no further than zone two) we are free to enjoy. Hailing from Copenhagen, where the brand is the market leader in Japanese food and has been going for 18 years, the concept isn’t especially new – it’s mostly sushi. I don’t know if you remember the early 2000s, but we were pretty crazy about it then. Maybe the Danes were just waiting for a prime time to strike the UK with a ‘sushi better than you’ve been making sushi for the last 15 years’ vibe, and I have to hand it to them – they’ve nailed it. It’s not just sushi, of course, there’s the sticks. Yakatori sticks, in fact – delicious selections of meat, seafood and vegetables on sticks (credit where credit is due: this place is good with the practical naming).
We didn’t hold back. With several dishes to share, stand out sticks included the succulent shisomaki (pork and basil) and the tasty maguro chili (tuna with chili, teriyaki, chives, red onion and ginger). An embarrassment of rolls proved to be the way to go, and we particularly enjoyed the kaburimaki rolls – large rolls topped with all manner of delicious things, from avocado to scallops, and mostly filled with tempura shrimp (well, the ones we ordered. And then re-ordered), demonstrating conclusively that everything tastes better when it’s battered. The uramaki (inside out rolls) also proved a hit – California deluxe roll being the favourite, closely followed by the crispy ebi roll, which may or may not have contained more tempura shrimp (we like batter, and we’re not ashamed, okay?).
Although I was dry for January (and drank twice as much in February to make up for it, obviously), I have it on good authority that nothing washes down delicately battered shrimp better than a carafe of warm sake, or one of the many delicious cocktails that have had the names forgotten, because some people might have ordered one too many of them. The service was fantastic with knowledgeable staff keen to help, and no pressure to leave once the meal was over – pretty rare in these parts. Though at the pricier end of the Japanese food scale (that may have been down to the gluttonous ordering), it’s definitely worth it for a slightly more special occasion – in our case, a Thursday night. But what is Little Friday if not a day to rejoice?