The Underground Restaurant – Japanese and Jackson night

Like cider cocktails, twitter and facial serum; it seems I’m forever doomed to be the last one to the party. Even when that party is on my own face.

And thus it was both generally and indeed, quite literally with Ms Marmite Lover’s Underground Restaurant. Despite leaving my house super early (“be there at 7.30pm sharp!”) and even minus my usual faff to locate keys/rizla/library book, I somehow still managed to make an unfashionably late appearance. As a seasoned Londoner, I’m fully aware that with our fragile and sensitive train lines, the tiniest droplet of water, the slightest hint of a fallen leaf and the anile bowels of our capital shudder to an inexorable halt.

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Ok, ok, I’m exaggerating! But after another scorchio day it seemed that some large puddles “flash floods” were enough to send even the taxis and buses into a veritable state of roadiac arrest. As I stomped around outside the tube station shaking my fist at the sky, miraculously a willing and able black chariot appeared (thank you kindly Mrs. Sky).

Ms Marmite was of course, completely chilled about my tardiness. She was brilliant, warm and positively fizzing with acerbic wit, everything I’d expected after reading her blog. She showed me to my table which I shared with Hannah and Audrey, two lovely Dalston lasses who had me in hysterics for most of the evening. I also met up with Kavey, Teanamu and Tim Hayward.

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Ours was most definitely the “back-of-the-bus” table, as between us we immediately managed to flood the pristine, snowy tablecloth with erm, soy sauce (We then made matters worse by unsuccessfully attempting to conceal the rapidly radiating stain with a small plate of edamame).

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oh dear

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I tried to create a diversion by spouting off in my dreadful Japanese to the nice folk from Tsuru who were helping out for the evening. In a quite frankly Welsh accent, I clumsily admitted that I’d forgotten most of the language to the point where I was pretty much on par with a 3 year old. They nodded sympathetically and smiled at me, as if to say they had no idea what on earth I was banging on about.

Despite being a table of massive naughties, we were nonetheless treated to brimming platters of sushi, sashimi, wakame and cucumber salad and a delicate miso broth replete with creamy, enoki mushrooms; all washed down with some of the fruitiest plum wine I’ve ever tasted.

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Tim had mentioned to me that her cooking was excellent, and I’d seen previous write ups of curries, mushroom raviolis and the like, so was full of anticipation. To say it didn’t disappoint would be an understatement.

The katsuo sandwich was delectable, laced with scribbles of Kewpie and the requisite Daddy’s-esque Bulldog sauce. They’d even cut the crusts off the white bread. This was something that used to drive me bonkers when I’d find them in my school lunch bento, but here it just made me feel all wistful and nostalgic….

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The sashimi was glintingly fresh, the almost-bitter mizuna leaves providing the perfect counterpoint to the iridescent, buttery slices. It was the imaginative twists that I really rated; the wasabi meringues that accompanied the matcha-saturated ice cream, the whisper-crisp avocado tempura and the crunchy slivers of fried burdock.

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There were warm lozenges of rice and fish encased in spicy, fragrant perilla leaves and garden-fresh camellia leaves. All served on the most beautiful crockery, in great company and in a gorgeous house. I also loved the two-fingers-up-at-the-law ethos of it all. The fact that the filth could have burst in at any moment must be a constant headache for poor Ms Marmite, but for me it was the proverbial red stuff on my chips.

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We were the last to leave, and as we said our goodbyes, her teen scowled at us from beneath a peroxide mop, hugging her knees to her chin as she perched on a chair in the kitchen. A proper teenager. On the way home we wondered what on earth she was possibly going to rebel against with a mum that cool?

While the more hardcore crew went clubbing, Hannah, Audrey and I shared a giggly cab journey back to our neck of the woods. This wasn’t just about the food though, it was the whole experience, and all at such bafflingly good value (£25? In your face credit crunch!).

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At one point we heard a table near us having a sing song, and later having a rolly out in the garden everyone talked to everyone else, just like you would at a house party. I mean seriously, can you ever imagine that happening in an “over ground” restaurant?

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