LIFE: SUSHI BUT NOT AS WE KNOW IT
There was a pleasing circularity in having a Japanese meal tonight on my second night back in London, given that I began the last stage of the EAT MY GLOBE journey in Japan.
Unfortunately, that was about the only thing about tonight’s meal that was pleasing as LIFE on Old St, the latest entry into London’s burgeoning Sushi scene, proved to be a bit of a damp squib.
A shame really as the perma grins of the staff displayed a genuine sweetness that belied their hapless efforts.
Early signs were not good. A simple drinks order prompted eight questions (yes we counted) as the waiter struggled to come to terms with a simple order of tea, soshu and beer and still managed to come back with the incorrect drinks. Added to which, the time between courses would have allowed us to catch up with a couple of series of “24” as we waited and waited and waited for the different stages of our meal to arrive. From time to time, when food did arrive, it was often meant for neighbouring tables and was whisked away before we had chance to pick up a chopstick.
Much of this could have been forgiven if the food had been terrific. Indeed, some of it could be forgiven if the food had been any good at all. But, As HP put it “when you are serving raw fish, there is no place to hide” and in the case of LIFE, clumsy execution and lack of freshness in the raw ingredients were in full evidence.
An appetizer plate of pickled vegetables was not bad at all retaining a crunch and not being swamped by vinegar and a “spring roll” wrapped in shiso was pleasantly crunchy with salmon replacing the unavailable horse mackerel. Edamame, however were over salted and stone cold.
After a long wait a plate of assorted seafood tempura appeared which had been allowed to sit for too long until the batter lost its crunch and the white fish and prawns had begun to turn to mush. This was followed by sashimi of sea bass and sweet prawns that lacked the prerequisite sparkling freshness as indeed did plates of clumsily made salmon skin and spider crab rolls, nigiri of eel, fish roe and scallops which replaced the unavailable sea urchin.
Not dreadful, just flabby and looking as if they had been hacked inexpertly of dull eyed fish making us happy that we had not taken up the option of the more formal Kaiseki tasting menu option.
A visit to the basement of the restaurant saw the discovery of a small shop selling a disparate collection of the bizarre tat that the Japanese seem so fond of alongside a man with rather wild hair standing disconsolately by twin DJ decks as if he was waiting for a party that was never going to happen. One wonders if they had spent more on the fish than on Hello Kitty merchandise if he would have more people to appreciate his skills.
The bill for three of us came to £95 including service which, as I said was beguilingly charming for such an average experience. But, the bar of Japanese food in London has been raised much higher in the last eighteen months and this fell way below what is on offer even just in the environs of Clerkenwell and Shoreditch with places like Edoku, Ginnan, Tajima-Tei, Saki and Matsuri offering better quality at a range of prices.
Unfortunately, I can’t see LIFE having much of a life.