Matsuri


Tel: +44 (0)20 7839 1101
Address: 15 Bury Street, London SW1Y 6AL
Cuisine Type: Japanese
Website: www.matsuri-restaurant.com
nearest tube stationGreen Park

Just round the corner from my office, I would relinquish the dubious delights of the staff canteen (sorry, “staff restaurant”) any day for lunch at Matsuri. The serenity of the basement room seems a world away from the busyness of St James’s, a sanctuary for harried office workers, shoppers and tourists alike. On the day of our visit though, the clientele comprised mainly businessmen on working lunches, the tranquil surroundings and discreet service perfect for uninterrupted conversation.

The seating, around the teppan-yaki grill tables, is not ideal for larger groups, but comfortable and spacious. The décor, reminiscent of traditional Japanese style, is neither old-fashioned nor garishly extravagant.

We opted for the lunchtime specials, comparatively much better value than the a la carte dishes that, as with many Japanese meals, tend to add up to a surprisingly hefty bill. The salmon sashimi and roe set (£12.50) was a generous portion of glossy fresh fish and eggs on rice and pronounced delicious by my colleagues, but the bento box (£12.50) a couple of us ordered was divine. Beautifully presented in three-layered compartmentalised lacquered boxes, this was a complete meal, each component varied, yet harmonious as a whole. Aubergine and bacon encased in light tempura batter, hijiki in soy sauce dressing, two melting fillets of mackerel and one of cod, chicken with winter vegetables and mushrooms,miso soup, rice, pickles and fresh fruit. Picture-perfect, executed to a high standard, and utterly scrummy.

I would definitely make another trip here to try out the teppan-yaki menu, which includes luxury ingredients such as lobster (£37), Scottish fillet and foie gras (£33), duck with teriyakiorange sauce (£20) and wagyu beef sirloin (seasonal price), the ultimate in pampered livestock, prized by the Japanese for the fat-marbled, tender meat resulting from a diet of beer and regular massages.

A range of sushi and sashimi is also available at about double the cost of a cheap-and-cheerful Japanese on Brewer Street, while set menus range from £35 to £80 per person. To put this in perspective, for the same £80, you could have the menu dégustation at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck or the menu exceptionnel at Michel Roux’s Waterside Inn, both three Michelin star restaurants.

Don’t forget that drinks come on top of this, with cocktails, sake, beer, wine and spirits easily adding another 50% or more to the final bill. If you still have any money left after all that, desserts (£3 – £4.75) of “fire-ball” ice cream and tropical fruits are available.

So, daily dining at Matsuri is a long lottery-win away, and whilst I may quibble about the misnomer, the sad reality is that the only restaurant I can afford to visit for lunch every day is the staff restaurant.

– Tracy Yam, 3/2004

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