'Sushi' or what British people know as sushi is fast overtaking the British craze for salads, which overtook the craze for soups, which overtook the craze for sandwiches. Essentially, lunches are getting lighter and healthier, as Hollywood stars get thinner.
Sushi is a tricky one to get right though. Any shop can buy some crusty bread, some good quality brie and add a slither of chutney and some salad and call it artisan. But how do you set the sushi benchmark? My idea of great sushi is sushi that can just as easily be eaten without the accompanying wasabi, soy and pickled ginger as without. If you need to disguise the sushi by smothering it in burning hot wasabi paste then chances are it's pretty dismal. Let's not pretend that these are the best sushi sellers of all time, but instead accept that most office workers who work in London are situated close enough to one of these, and less close to an authentic little Japanese sushi-option.
Wasabi, Pret, Abokado, Tesco or good old M&S? These all sell perfectly good looking attempts at takeaway sushi, but how do they taste?
Definitely starting with the best right now in London. Wasabi offer three types of vegetarian sushi: pumpkin croquettes, a mini veggie selection and a full, enormous vegetarian offering for £5.45. If you're hungry, this is an incredible lunchtime treat. Eight small maki rolls are filled with moist rice and a sliver of fresh vegetable: red pepper, cucumber, tofu and avocado. These are accompanied by two enormous Inarizushi, or rice wrapped in a thin layer of tofu. However it's a little sweet for me, and could easily be a desert. This is accompanied by four generous sized pieces of red pepper, tofu and avocado uramaki. The whole enormous portion is accompanied by a small salad with edamame beans and a sachet of wasabi, ginger and soy sauce. 5/5
And to the low point. Pret is one of the best places to pick up a sandwich or bowl of hot, fresh soup in London, but serving good sushi it does not. Which is all the more surprising given that Itsu, a lunchtime sandwicherie owned and started by Pret, actually serves pretty decent sushi/oriental options. Good wasabi should be so hot that it is difficult to swallow without your nose feeling as though a lit match has been pushed into your nostrils. Pret's wasabi is so mild you could use it as toothpaste, which is a shame because Pret's sushi is so bad, you really want something to erode the taste-buds so you won't have to taste it. Pret offers 8 pieces of sushi for £3.99. This is extortionate. For this you get some inedible urimaki rolls and some inedible hosimaki. Stay well away and choose some soup instead. 1/5
Aside from the fact that everything vegetarian in Abokado has avocado in it (no surprise really, considering the play on words of the cafés name). I swear that I accidentally lost loads of weight purely because all I had for lunch for three weeks was a helping of Abokado vegetarian sushi and some sweet and salt popcorn. This wasn't intentional, I just liked the taste so much that it felt like a real treat. The eight rolls are all the same, so it's not for those who get bored easily with flavours. Compared to Wasabi or anywhere else, the fact that the flavours are all the same, gives Abokado nowhere to hide. They are fresh and absolutely tasty. The wasabi is zingy and the pieces of avocado are generous. At £2.99 it's cheap, and most importantly, filling. 4/5
The reason why I refused to go to a Japanese restaurant for 10 years was because of an unfortunate run in with a tray of Tesco sushi. Oh dear Lord, whenever I had it, my memory is of it tasting worse than Pret's sushi, which is a remarkable achievement. However, it is also the cheapest at just £1 for four pieces. However, one of these pieces was just rice, which destroyed the magic a little. Another piece had cream cheese in. Do Japanese people use cream cheese? I don't think so. Certainly not cream cheese that looked and tasted like that. Avoid and go to M&S. 0/5
Marks and Spencer
Ah M&S, that bastion of Britishness. And, serving wonderfully good trays of sushi! Two slices of rice with chargrilled vegetables (including, randomly, asparagus) and four tasty maki rolls. These are filled with beetroot that stains the rice around it red but makes it look super pretty, carrot, yellow pepper and cucumber. This is served with hosimaki with a cream cheese filling (again, why, urgh?). The set is served with excellent pickled ginger, slightly too mild wasabi and a sachet of soy sauce. At £3 it's good value for money too. Though enough with the cream cheese already! 3/5