Anthea Gerrie tucks into Taro Walthamstow. Bento boxes and sushi rolls in an art nouveau setting.
Taro is the quintessential example of how Walthamstow, a working-class neighbourhood of north-east London, gentrifying Japanese servers and expert sushi chefs have moved into what used to be the old Manze’s pie shop in the middle of the high street, creating a fascinating fusion ambience, although the cuisine is strictly Asian.
This sixth London site is the latest outpost of Mr Taro’s colonisation of the capital with affordable authentic Nipponese eateries which serve elegantly presented fare without pretension – it’s a TaishuShokudo, which translates as “everyday dining room”.
The Walthamstow branch is uniquely sited within the art nouveau splendour of a landmark building in the neighbourhood famous for its William Morris Museum – you could swear the master of pattern may have had something to do with the decorative subway tiling which makes the room glorious. It’s lined with cosy booths, making this a restaurant for table dining, rather than round a counter watching the sushi chefs execute their bravura moves on super-fresh raw fish.
There is certainly plenty of super-fresh fish in the sushi and sashimi selections – expect yellowtail and tuna belly as well as salmon, shrimp and other species, properly presented with tiny mounds of grass-green wasabi and little piles of pickled ginger to clean the palate between bites.
But lunchtime is the perfect opportunity to enjoy many authentic tastes at once packed into the lacquered Bento boxes which are the staple of working lunches in Japan. Not super-cheap at £15.90, but undeniably good value, as you may not feel the need for dinner. I chose prawn tempura as my main ingredient, enjoying the perfectly crisp, featherlight batter, my companion duck strips in a dark sauce one step sweeter and richer than classic teriyaki. Both boxes had salmon sushi and other delicious bits and pieces on the side.
The only complaint was a slight over-predominance of rice throughout the menu – order some sashimi to get a good balance, remembering it can push up the final bill at £2-4 per portion.
Particular to Taro Walthamstow is the Manze Dragon Roll (£13.90), named in honour of the old pie and mash shop, filled with crab stick, avocado, asparagus and tobiko – tiny pearls of orange flying fish roe – topped with grilled eel and sesame seeds. There are many other hand-rolls available, making for a more interesting choice than straight sushi or sashimi. Chopped into cross-sections, they’re easy to share and bring seaweed into the equation.
The restaurant was awaiting its alcohol licence when we visited, but in the absence of Japanese beer or sake, we found endless pots of fragrant Japanese tea made a fine accompaniment. It all felt very authentic, and while Walthamstow High Street is still more pound shops and cheap supermarkets than the vintage stores popping up in other parts of the neighbourhood, lunch at Taro alone makes it worth taking the 20-minute Tube ride from town to the northern end of the Victoria Line.
Tell Me More About Visiting Taro Walthamstow
Taro Walthamstow, 76 High Street, Walthamstow, London E17 7LD
T: 07515 389867