The website for Sticks ‘n’ Sushi carries the tag line “voted best sushi in Copenhagen, trying hard in London”.
The Danish brand’s efforts here have so far focused on the Wimbledon restaurant which opened last year. Wimbledon is an unexpected location to open a new restaurant, particularly one keen to expand (there are eleven locations in Copenhagen) but the brand’s UK flagship became popular with well-heeled locals and a favourite lunch spot for “yummy mummies”.
They also ran some clever marketing during the tennis to take advantage of the borough’s annual fortnight of inflated popularity, but for the rest of the time the brand’s Twitter feed worked hard to persuade non-locals that Wimbledon was really not that far from central London.
Now the first Sticks ‘n’ Sushi venue in zone 1 has opened its doors and I was happy to be invited to one of the preview launch nights. The interior has a minimalist, Scandinavian aesthetic with both table and bar seating. Downstairs is the place to go if you want to glimpse your food being made in the open plan kitchen.
Cheeky “Denmark vs. UK” messaging is visible throughout the venue, even on the staff’s t-shirts which have slogans like “Danish lessons on the house” with snippets of translated vocabulary. Glossy table-talkers show stylish black & white images of landmarks, cultural references and scenery comparing the two countries.
However the fun, cutesy tone is secondary to Sticks ‘n’ Sushi’s main point of difference: the menus declare that this is a sushi restaurant “for people who don’t like sushi”.
The “sticks” part of the name does not refer to chopsticks as many assume, but to the meaty yakitori skewers which make up around half the menu. Sticks ‘n’ Sushi is a decent compromise for couples or groups of friends where one party has a sushi craving while the rest crave steak.
Of course I love both so ordered a few things from the Ikea catalogue style menu. This is not meant as an insult; I usually run a mile from restaurants which display pictures of the food (they’re usually dodgy kebab shops or awful tourist traps) but Sticks ‘n’ Sushi’s menu is a great example of how to do something differently, with glossy pages, clear images, attractive styling and carefully considered layout.
Chargrilled edamame, with patches of scorched, smokey skin, were perfect to pick at with cocktails while we decided what to order.
Tuna tartare with tobiko and quail’s egg yolk had beautifully clean, subtle flavours.
This sushi platter would probably make purist Japanese sushi chefs furious but I couldn’t resist ordering something called “Hell’s Kitchen rolls” – tempura shrimp, spicy sauce, avocado and tuna.
Our waitress also recommended the Salmon New York Nigiri which includes garlic – one of the most popular dishes apparently (seen in foreground).
Yakitori skewers with a decadent foie gras and truffle glaze.
The spare ribs were the dud of the dishes we tried, with a somewhat dry, tough texture and way too much coriander.
Yakiniku steak served with kimchee was a fusion dish done well, although the kimchee did not have the punch of the New Malden version.
We finished our meal with a foursome of miniature desserts which caused serious spoon-clashing as we fought over the last morsels. It would have been no problem to polish off full sizes of all of them, particularly the chocolate fondant with hazelnut and caramel brittle.
The restaurant may be “trying hard in London” but as long as it continues to ensure that both sides of their offering are equally high quality, they can relax a little. I dare say we will be seeing more Sticks ‘n’ Sushi restaurants opening up around London before long.