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Near the Gherkin, a surprisingly comfortable and atmospheric Japanese restaurant, specialising in sushi; standards are uniformly high, and - if you choose the sushi menu - can even be enjoyed at reasonable cost.
There's something odd about this new Japanese restaurant by the Gherkin. It took us a while to figure out what it was. Ah yes. Atmosphere. Yes, it really had atmosphere! Isn't that a bit of a first for a Japanese restaurant in the capital? And in the City too! Extraordinary.
In fact, we liked this place a whole lot more than we expected. Part of it was the atmosphere thing. And part of it was that it has an interesting interior, apparently supposed to evoke an ancient tea house. Indeed, with only 60-odd covers altogether, it offers no fewer than four different sorts of seating: at a large tatami table; at tables (with Gherkin-views); at the sushi bar; or - nookie special - in one of the secluded cabins, each of which has its own little staircase. It's all very comfortable - an impression which staff trying hard do nothing to disturb.
It is no particular surprise that bills at an upmarket Japanese restaurant in the City can run pretty high, and you can easily spend £100 a head here without trying. In the face of rigorous cost-control edicts from Harden's World Headquarters, however, we restricted ourselves to total expenditure of £35 for one (yes, that includes tip and a glass of wine, but not coffee, which they don't offer).
The secret of this relative economy - as well, as it turned out, as a really good deal for anyone's money - is to sit in one of the comfortably upholstered chairs at the sushi counter, and order the £25 sushi menu. (At night you can eat this menu anywhere.)
For the money, this was very much more of a meal than we'd expected. The prettily-presented main plate of five sorts of good fishy sushi were preceded by various even more prettily-presented tasting dishes, and succeeded by miso soup, some more sushi, and even a couple of tasting-size portions of Western puddings (tiramisu and chocolate mousse). We left feeling quite, well, full, which wasn't what we were expecting at all.
Despite the general impression that it must be a joy spending one's life visiting new restaurants, it is in fact relatively rare to leave a new place with a positive desire to return anytime particularly soon. Well, this is one of the exceptions. Who'd ever have thought if of a City Japanese?
1f, 20 Bury St, London, EC3A 5AX
Last orders: 10 pm