Ichi Sushi: turning Japanese on London’s South Bank

20 Dec

Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar interior

Hotel restaurants were, back in the day, the place to eat. Led by those great dining rooms of the Savoy and the Ritz, they radiated the opulence and grandeur of the Edwardian era and you could gorge yourself silly on some ludicrously over the top Escoffier nosh. Sadly, it wouldn’t last.

As Michelin came to London and chefs started doing fancy things in their own-name restaurants, hotel dining fell out of favour. The trend turned towards seeking out the small, exclusive joint where the chef/patron’s name would be above the door, and their reputation and livelihood at stake if they screwed up. Now though, hotel dining has come full circle. There was Marco Pierre White’s fabled Oak Room in Piccadilly, where I ate my first ever three starred dinner in the late 90s, then Ramsay reinvented Claridge’s a decade later and now they’re all at it, the latest being Heston Blumenthal’s Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental.

Sadly though, the norm for most hotel dining is still overpriced, confused and usually reminiscent of eating in an airport departure lounge. Ichi Sushi in the Park Plaza Westminster Bridge had two things in its favour from the outset however; a beautiful view across said bridge to the Houses of Parliament, and super friendly waiting staff.

The menu is as unintimidating as a sushi/sashimi joint could be, with all the staple nigiri and maki, California rolls and sashimi plus one or two interesting quasi-Nobu style treats on the specials selection. Behind the 80s style shiny black counter, head chef Sadayuki Okamoto worked with stereotypically quiet, taught efficiency to bring us a special starter of seared tuna with yuzu-dressed mizuna and jalapeno sauce. The fresh tuna, although it had been pre-seared, was not overpowered by the sauce despite the huge pools of jalapeno green sludge we got on the plate. Decent opener and hat tip to Nobu on a decent blending of South American and Japanese flavours.

The star, as it should always be in a sushi bar, was the fish. A user-friendly selection of sushi and sashimi saw two pieces of salmon, tuna and yellowtail plus spicy tuna maki roll and what was labelled as California roll but arrived as avocado filled maki. Also on there were one nigiri each of tuna, salmon, yellowtail, prawn and salmon roe. All pretty sparklingly fresh fish and served with some dynamite fresh wasabi that puts the powdered or tube based stuff we usually get to shame. There were also other specials of prawn tempura roll – amazingly still crisp inside, and spicy tuna rolls – lacking a bit of spice but serving up a nice umami punch nonetheless.

My only criticisms would be the selection was a little on the mean side for £40, but then again, this is a hotel restaurant, as attested to by the incongruous lounge bar crooning from the adjoining area. We also felt the sashimi could have benefitted from being sliced a little thinner and the rice lacked that slight sweet, vinegary punch you expect from sushi rice.

There’s a shortish list of wine, but a separate sake section and plenty of choice from the food menu for the odd vegetarian who might wander in here from time to time. This included my old Japanese nemesis mozuku, a gloopy bowl of gelatinous seaweed sometimes served with a raw egg yolk, which will test the resolve of even the hardiest culinary daredevil.

As hotel restaurants go this is not a bad little shout, and represents a welcome new choice if you’re on the South Bank and hungry. So have some respect, please don’t go to Yo Sushi.

Ichi Sushi & Sashimi Bar, Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, London

+44 (0)20 7620 7373

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