Sosharu. Atherton goes further east than the City.
If I were given the power to make the law, rather than just interpret it, I would rule that all toilets had to be in the Japanese style. Features include a heated seat which flips down to welcome you, strategically-placed jets to wash you down, and a built-in blowdryer to conclude proceedings. It senses when you have finished and then flushes itself and closes, without the need for intervention by the human hand.
In some of the more sophisticated iterations, one can choose a background noise, to mask any sounds not suitable for public broadcast. Who wouldn’t want that?
You can experience some of those features in the lavatories at Jason Atherton’s Sosharu, one of the newer outposts of the Atherton empire.
Sosharu is split into three sections: a self-styled Izakaya bar, the main restaurant and a chef’s table space. An Izakaya is a sort of Japanese pub, the sort you just drop into on the way home for a drink and a snack. This Izakaya bar, The 7 Tales, is in the basement, all moody décor and copious use of neon. It offers quirky cocktails and a bar you can sit at, whilst staring at the laboratory in front of you which displays some rather esoteric ingredients, destined for their cocktails.
It is an Izakaya in the way that Harrods is a supermarket. It’s too polished to be an authentic Japanese-style Izakaya. I know. I’ve actually been. But it’s fun and the cocktails are interesting and you can get in without booking.
I am dining out with a private banker, OK, who is early. They have seated him in The 7 Tales. “Mr Richmond is already here,” they say, as they walk me into the bar.
Bad thing: assuming the man you are meeting is your husband. Good thing: assuming that the man you are meeting is your husband, even though he is substantially younger than you.
I had bonded with OK at what might otherwise have been a tiresome drinks function, over kitchens, cats and food. We discussed black fossil-stone and whether it is a suitable surface for a working kitchen (me: no, him: yes) and how many cats might be too many, an answer which depends on the size of your house and the breaking point of your partner.
He tells me that I can order what I like from the menu. Whilst I obviously love control over the menu, indeed over most things, I am not sure how much to order and what might be okay for OK. The waitress suggests six to eight dishes. It will not surprise you to discover that I order nine. I skip over the sashimi because there are too many other temptations.
I order the open Temaki, with tuna, scallion, tobiko, sushi rice and spiced mayonnaise. Tobiko is fish roe and scallions are your bog-standard spring onions and I’m not quite sure why we have to use the American word for them when we are in Farringdon. Stop it.
Temaki is, effectively, a sushi taco, the seaweed casing deep-fried in tempura batter, filled with chopped raw tuna and roe, with a wasabi mayo and a little bottle filled with spiced mayo to squirt on your tuna. It needs the mayo and once it has it, this is a lovely mouthful. Crunchy, sweet/sharp and all that lovely fresh tuna. Not quite sure where the scallions are.
Not easy to eat, but you’ll manage. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that you order it at a business lunch, not unless you’re happy with getting food all over the table.
Some things are memorable and a few dishes are meh. There’s a wonderful chicken Kara-age, deep-fried boneless chicken, served with three types of salt; kombu (seaweed), wasabi and smoked. It’s a bit unnecessary, the three and I’m a salt lover. Diversion: I used the power of Twitter to contact Leon restaurants, where the manager of the London Bridge branch had gone loco and decided that salt wasn’t good for their customers and refused to provide it. They do now. I know that sounds arsey, but really, I’m not a child. And also, the salt thing? Read this from Scientific American.
Not everything is memorable. The pale aubergine miso thing is a little meh and I fear that I have been spoilt by the Roka version, which I order every time I eat there. I tell myself I won’t, but life is short. The sea-bream sashimi dish is not worth the big waitress upsell, but that is forgiven when I taste the stuffed chicken wings, which come to the table presented legs akimbo, a sight which gives me pause. We both fail to notice the dip for the chicken and this is perhaps because the dishes are coming thick and fast and the table is now getting rather cluttered.
This is one of those restaurants where dishes arrive at the convenience of the kitchen. Fortunately, they appear to appear in the order ordered, but even I am astonished at the speed with which they arrive. The table can’t quite fit all the food on it and not only because I have ordered enough for three healthy adults.
If I could travel back in time I’m not sure I’d re-order the grilled lamb cutlets, roasted onion and sesame aka miso (sic). The bright pink lamb chunks were hidden under Little Gem lettuce leaves, which were presented in a semicircle and filled with a sweet red liquid and a paste which I think was miso-based. It looked like the lettuce had been used to scoop up the aftermath of a gory accident. There were chops without crispy bits on them. Or meat. I wondered why. I wasn’t sure this was £25, before service.
Far better was the joyously rich Chashu pork belly, udon king oyster and ramen sauce. A bowl of fat thick udon noodles, a barely cooked egg, a large tempura-coated deep-fried seaweed wafer, a soft, yielding slow-cooked round of pork, this was a plateful of umami-rich goodness. A child would love the decorations on the pork ; bright yellow blobs of some sort of mayo and scalloped-edge wafers I have only ever encountered before by way of an emoji, all served in a rich, deep tonkotsu stock, also known as bone broth by the sort of people who espouse clean eating or gluten-free. I loved this and at £16, it’s a love experience I could happily repeat.
I haven’t had cold soba noodles since I was in Japan. I know they don’t sound appetising, in a cold spaghetti way but trust me. Here, the noodles are served with ice-cubes on top and numerous accompaniments you are meant to dunk in your dashi of deep loveliness. Cold soba noodles are a thing of beauty and simplicity, without all the pimp-my-dish stuff going on here, though I quite liked the bits of seaweed and tempura broccoli.
Simply put, soba noodles are buckwheat noodles “put into a mouth, and it sniffles and has at a breath”. Or so said the menu in the Tokyo department store I first ate these in. Again, not a dish I’d recommend for a business meeting or a first date, as you slurp your way to noodle nirvana and a splattered shirt.
We finish with a very creditable mango sticky rice, served in a real half-coconut shell. Not quite the Thai version of joy and happiness, but really quite gooey-lovely. I try to scoop out the fresh coconut but my spoon isn’t up to it. OK has been to Thailand but has never had mango sticky rice. My pity is real and deep.
Judgement: Beautifully designed and attractive to the sort of person who likes fossil-stone, Sosharu is Japanese in the way of Roka or Zuma. It’s trendy Japanese food for those who are a bit frightened by sashimi and is sufficiently smart for the surrounding city folk to take advantage at lunchtime. Location is a bit off-pitch and it wasn’t full on the Thursday night we visited. The food came at a pace, but there was no table-turning in evidence; perhaps there was no need. It’s not cheap, but it’s no more expensive than similar venues. I’d try it if I were you, they’re keeping your seat warm.
Wow, some of it sounds and looks epic, though good to know a few to avoid..