Tel: +44 (0)20 7287 6622
Address: 3 Piccadilly Place, W1J 0DB
Cuisine Type: Japanese
Website: www.yoshino.net
nearest tube station Piccadilly

Japanese food is perfect for lunches out with work colleagues. Not too messy (think spaghetti splashes), not too pungent (think vindaloo, garlic bread) and not too similar to what you would have had if you just grabbed lunch to eat at your desk (think sandwiches and boxed salads). Having already discovered the positively luscious (and potentially bankrupting) Matsuri, a friend and I went in search of Yoshino, the restaurant associated with the fab Japanese delicatessen in the basement of the Japan Centre.

Despite its location on a dodgy passage off Piccadilly – one of London’s homeless camped in a sleeping bag outside – the restaurant itself is very pleasant. Minimalist, wood furnishings, discreet lighting, well-spaced tables, spotlessly clean and perfectly pitched air-conditioning; in short, everything you would expect from a well-run Japanese operation.

The menu comprises mainly sushi and shashimi, the emphasis being on freshness rather than variety. Rather than fill the menu with an assortment of the weird and wonderful, the menu states that only fish available fresh on the day is served, so even the more common varieties (tuna, sea bass, bream or yellow tail) may not be guaranteed.

Both of us opted for the “Mini Yoshino” bento (£7.80), a compartmentalised box containing pieces of shashimi, very lightly seared on the outside before being sliced, grilled mackerel, potato salad, sweet omelet (sic), pickles, rice and miso soup. Both the shashimi and grilled mackerel were very fresh with a succulent texture, and the rice and miso soup, staples of any Japanese meal, were of a high quality. The rice had been cooked perfectly, the grains still individually separate but bound by just the right degree of stickiness, and was topped with toasted sesame seeds for additional fragrance, while the miso was spruced up with deep-fried tofu, marrow and unusually, watercress. Perhaps they were out of seaweed…

There are other nice touches, like the home-made tofu, pickles and desserts (including tofu ice cream and ginger or green tea sorbets – £2.80), seasonal specials every month, and ungreedy pricing for this part of town. Bentos range from £6.80 to £15.80, while a 28 piece shashimi selection with five types of fish is only £25.

Service from the all-Japanese staff was in keeping with the rest of our experience of Yoshino – welcoming yet courteous, efficient and unobtrusive.

While the afternoon clientele of office suits talking shop and lunching Japanese women made for a sedate atmosphere, this is a great place to go if you want a quiet chat rather than a rowdy office party. Now that I’ve found the venue, I just need to find the time to get away from that desk of mine more…