This is possibly the first time that I’m not starting a blog post with the words ‘I love…’ as I have to say that I really don’t love Asian food! I’m not sure what it is about it but I’m generally not a fan of it and I certainly wouldn’t choose it over other cuisines. It doesn’t help that Marcus probably dislikes it even more than me, so there will never really be a time when we’ll decide to go for Asian food. In my uneducated palette, Asian food encompasses Chinese, Thai, Japanese and Korean and whilst there are so many different styles and types of food, I often see so many of their dishes as fried rice or fried noodles in a sticky sauce. That said, I’m trying to get better, particularly as I know there are some really good Asian restaurants in London. I feel like Japanese food would be a good place to start and if I’m in the mood for it, I really like sushi.
Unfortunately I think that sushi would have to be the last remaining food on the planet for Marcus to consider eating it and given how many amazing places there are to eat in London, any cravings I have for sushi usually go unsatisfied. But last weekend my best friend stayed over and since she loves Asian food I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try Sticks n Sushi as it had been on my list for quite a while.
Our trip there didn’t start particularly well! We got lost (not strictly true.. more distracted by the free chocolate samples in Selfridges!) and even though I called to say that we were late, by the time we got there we were actually thirty minutes late and they’d given our table away! They offered us a seat in the bar area and we were lucky enough to get a high table opposite the bar. At the time I was a little disappointed as I’d have rather had a proper table, but it was actually nicer to be towards the back of the restaurant where it was a little quieter. We did see plenty of people order sushi with their cocktails at the bar itself, but I don’t think I’d have enjoyed it as much with people shaking up cocktails next to me and having to keep switching between facing my food at the bar and my friend next to me. I really feel as though the experience as a whole is so important with sushi and it’s about so much more than good food. When we first turned up late, I’d thought that the ninety minutes remaining would have been more than enough time as they allocate a two hour slot with each booking. I was so wrong – we were there for three and a half hours! I have no idea how the time passed so quickly, but the atmosphere was so perfect (and we ordered so much food!) that the time flew by!
Don’t get me wrong – I don’t pretend to know anything about Asian food but the whole place was exactly as I’d imagine a sushi bar to be. It was elegant, contemporary and refined with wooden floors, black leather tables and a mix of modern chairs and comfy sofas. There was an incredibly relaxed atmosphere and the restaurant was perfectly lit – it was fairly dark but there were big lights above each table so I could see all of my food perfectly. And trust me – you want to see it perfectly! Each item is perfectly crafted and presented with each plate of food like a work of art.
There was a huge selection of sushi, and I’d say we did a pretty good job of sampling it! They have a few set menus which have some amazing selections – we went for the maki set menu which had a selection of uramaki/inside out rolls – 8 crispy ebi, 8 spicy tuna and 8 pink alaska. The rolls were immaculately flavoured and presented – the crispy ebi roll was by far my favourite. There’s nothing better than tempura prawns or shrimp when they’re done well and these were perfect – soft and succulent shrimp in the most incredibly crispy light batter. They also have a huge selection of hosomaki/small rolls with all the fillings – tuna, salmon, cucumber, shrimp, avocado, etc – these are great for filling out the meal at very little extra cost but we decided to save our stomachs for the more exciting menu items, of which there were many!
We also tried the crunchy tempura shrimp and salmon temaki/handrolls. These were amazing – the seaweed was thin and crispy and the fillings were perfect. I would definitely recommend ordering a couple of these to try!
I think my favourite thing out of everything we ordered was the soft-shell crab rice paper rolls. I wasn’t sure what to expect and the photos on the menu didn’t give much away but they were incredible. Soft crab fried in light tempura batter rolled up with avocado and lettuce in the most delicate, paper-thin, soft but slightly sticky wrap.
We decided that we couldn’t come to sticks n sushi without trying some of their sticks – we went for teriyaki salmon, rib-eye beef with barbecue marinade and scallops wrapped in bacon with miso herb butter. So round two involved sticks and their green and grilled salad. They bring the sticks and the sushi out separately since the sticks are warm and it is quite nice to have a break and a chat between rounds, though I think that the sticks alone would have been quite boring. Personally I’d have preferred my sticks and sushi together, but I can definitely see their logic as no one likes cold food 🙂 I’m glad we tried the sticks but honestly, I really wasn’t blown away by them. The salmon admittedly was incredibly succulent and perfectly flavoured but the other two left a lot to be desired. The scallops themselves were soft but incredibly salty and almost unbearable when combined with the saltiness of the bacon it was wrapped in. The rib-eye beef was well cooked but had streaks of gristle running throughout which made it hard to swallow. There are a lot of other sticks available to try and I don’t feel like we tried enough to give a fair review, but when I go back (yes I’m definitely going back!) I think I’ll just order more sushi and leave the sticks. Despite them having some other different combinations which I’m sure are great (panko breaded duck and goats cheese with dried ham for example), I feel like there’s only so great they can be – it’s just meat on a stick after all. The salad on the other hand was amazing – not only was it beautifully presented, it had so many elements and the most delicious dressing. It included tamari tofu, vegetables, king oyster mushrooms, cauliflower, tender stem broccoli, lettuce, tomatoes, snow peas, cucumber, edamame beans, avocado, red onion, radish, ginger, roasted pumpkin seeds and quinoa and it was every bit as spectacular as it sounds. They have a few other salads – the fish bowl salad also sounded amazing, and you can order smaller portions so it’s more of a side dish (which it should be – nothing beats the sushi!).
It did take a while for the food to arrive but was worth the wait and to be honest, I barely noticed since we were chatting anyway. It’s definitely not somewhere to go in a rush though, I loved the whole experience of escaping the rush and hustle of central London to relax with good company and several rounds of food.
They have so many set menus available and I think they’re a great mix and perfect for indecisive people like me! Some are a mix of sticks and sushi, some just contain sushi and I have my eye on an absolutely huge sushi platter for next time – four meal drive big. Their website describes it better than I could so I’ve put a picture of it down below – how good does it look!?
Then there were the desserts. WHERE TO START!? They have sushi-style desserts – they’re all small and you can order a selection of 4.. or 9. Clearly this was not a difficult decision and it was perfect for me as I’m so indecisive and I always want to try everything! The hard part was deciding which desserts to go for! They’d run out of the black sesame ice cream and I’m not a fan of liquorice which ruled out a couple, but I tried almost everything else – two crumbles with yuzu curd and meringue, two yuzu sorbets, a coconut ice cream, a bergamot orange crème brûlée, Marcel chocolate cake with crystallised white chocolate, coconut cake, a white chocolate with sweet miso and popped rice truffle and a dark chocolate with caramel and light toasted sesame truffle. Every single one was so perfectly thought out and beautifully presented. I love yuzu and the flavour of that coming through in so many of their desserts was delicious. The yuzu sorbet was incredible – it was so tangy and refreshing! The chocolate cake was rich and soft but it had a thick layer of mousse which I wasn’t expecting – I’ll go for the dark chocolate fondant next time :). The dark chocolate truffle had a caramel centre and it was delicious.. the white one had a lovely chocolatey centre but the popped rice didn’t quite work for me – it had gone soft (think soggy popcorn!) and I think that the truffle would have been better off without it, or maybe rolled in coconut instead 🙂 My favourite dessert was undoubtedly the coconut cake though – it was DIVINE. Soft, warm, spongey coconut with a surprise chocolate filling – I could’ve eaten nine of those!!
The waiters were so friendly and polite which I really think is something that is so disappointingly lacking in many London restaurants. From the moment we sat down they were attentive without being annoying, they talked us through the menu (which by the way is huge!) and each item when the food arrived. We had a slight miscommunication with the ‘sticks’. We’d ordered one beef, one salmon and a couple of scallops wrapped in bacon but when they arrived we had two sticks of each. The prices on the menu had been listed both ‘for one’ and ‘for two’ so we were a little surprised when two of each came. We queried this with our waiter who said (in hindsight a little ambigiously) that they ‘came in pairs’ and since they were quite small sticks, two for around four pounds seemed reasonable and we didn’t question it further. However when the bill came, we’d been charged for two of everything – we were debating whether or not to say anything, or whether to opt out of the discretionary 10% gratuity instead since the price difference was similar.
In the end we thought that would be unfair as the service had been good, so we mentioned it to our waiter. He was extremely apologetic and had the bill amended immediately even though it had actually been the case that two sticks = two portions and we’d eaten the lot! This was a big positive in my eyes.. it was very little to do with the actual saving and more the way in which they handled the situation. They didn’t make a fuss, they didn’t make us feel bad about it, they just apologised and corrected the bill. It’s not that I think that ‘the customer is always right’ and I honestly cringe when I hear the complaints which some people make, but I feel that many restaurants often forget the impact that one small bad experience can have on someone’s memories of the place or likelihood to make future recommendations. I genuinely try to avoid making a fuss or sending food back out of principle, but I’ve been to places before where one small thing (which should have been totally insignificant) ended up marring my view of the place – for example I once went for a lovely brunch where everything was good but then they made a fuss because the gratuity (which they state everywhere is optional!) meant that the bill went just over a round number (I’m talking a matter of pence.. twenty five pounds and seven pence – yes I still remember!) and they kicked up a huge fuss because I just left twenty five. It’s nice to visit a place where the staff are genuinely so lovely that you leave gratuity because you really feel like you’ve been served well as opposed to because they just smack it on the bill.
We saw plenty of other amazing looking dishes and platters coming out of the kitchen so we agreed that we’re definitely going back!
Would I recommend it? Yes
Worth going out of your way for? Yes!
Would I go back? Definitely 🙂
Link to their website: http://www.sticksnsushi.com