For his now infamous lunchtime trip Stan Graham fancies a taste of Japan, he heads to Little Toyko, to be found behind House of Fraser.
I always start to worry when I go out for lunch and the drink comes to more than the food. In the 1970s it was common practice on Friday to hit the pub and have something to eat and several pints but that tradition seems to have died out. It also seems that Friday afternoon is the busiest time of the working week, especially for techies, as clients need problems sorted out for the weekend. Before all of this electronic malarkey Friday was known as POETS day standing for – in the more polite offices – Push Off Early, Tomorrow’s Saturday. This meant that you could pop back into the office a little the worse for wear knowing that you only had an hour or so to survive. The phones rarely rang as workers from every other office in the City were in exactly the same position.
These reminiscences came to mind when I saw the bill for my lunch at Little Tokyo. I was far from inebriated but the lunch offer was so cheap that it came to exactly the same amount as my glass of wine. As its name suggests, Little Tokyo is a Japanese restaurant in Central Road, situated behind House of Fraser. The premises are divided into two parts, a takeaway counter and a restaurant. It was really dark inside, a condition accentuated by the strong sunlight outside, but once my eyes had become accustomed, I could see that there were conventionally proportioned tables and chairs near the window but at the back of the room was a space behind a screen with traditional low Japanese tables and floor cushions for sitting. There was also a large water feature which is full of carp and has a rather noisy waterfall. Should you have any kind of bladder problem I suggest that you acquaint yourself with the whereabouts of the rest rooms on entering, as the ceaseless sound of running water is bound to take its toll.
I declined the offer of the main menu and opted to order from the lunchtime specials. Although sushi is available on the main menu there was none to be seen on this one, whose main feature was noodles. I chose the Chicken Ramen with Vegetarian Spring Rolls. Of the eight meals on offer, three are vegetarian. All of the choices were priced at £6.99 and consisted of two items which I would have thought may have been a starter and a main course, but they were both delivered together.
There were three spring rolls which contained vegetables, although the only identifiable one was carrot. The others were variations on finely chopped green leaves, but having said that, they were very tasty. The accompanying sauce was sweet rather than piquant but very tasty nonetheless. The ramen came in an enormous bowl which was packed with chicken and vegetables. This time they were identifiable as water chestnut, pak choi, cabbage and the ubiquitous carrot. Again there was nothing to offend a sensitive palate.
The chicken came in quite large pieces, as did the vegetables and, as you would expect, the noodles were cooked perfectly. I had a glass of Beaujolais at £6.99 for 175ml to accompany the feast, thus bringing the total bill to £13.98. This was amazing value and a pleasant change from the more conventional lunchtime fare. The two ladies at the next table ordered from the main menu and were presented with two of the biggest plates I have ever seen in a restaurant. As I was leaving I asked them whether the food tasted as impressive as it looked and they both confirmed that it did. Perhaps a venue to add to the evening meal list.
On leaving I took solace in the fact that the food and the drink bills were equal, so I have not yet reverted to my habits of the era of flared trousers, wide lapels and kipper ties. On reflection, I think that we must probably have done our clothes shopping on Friday afternoons.
Photography by Stan Graham