Some years ago, during a period when I was working for Capital One and feeling drastic need to escape the office at lunch I would take a stroll up the path by the new tram lines and sit for half an hour with a coffee in a then, new deli, called Stones Deli. They had a small restaurant upstairs and on the street level an open plan coffee shop and a deli counter with the usual culprits of cheeses, cured meats and olives alongside squid and pickled fish dishes to take away. In the corner Mr Antonio Carluccio and his phenomenally expensive Italian style goodies were for sale.
In the winter they sold home-made soups and offered a good line in gluten free options at the counter. I always enjoyed watching the world go by with a chance to relax over a coffee and some casual people watching. I think I always dreamt of one day being able to linger longer and do some writing and not be beholden to the unforgiving Capital One clock as the seconds of my dinner hour ticked wickedly away. Then one iniquitous day I was shocked to see that Stones Deli was closed – forever! It had gone into receivership. What about my trusty coffee stop!? What about the squid for a quid!?
Time went by and nothing seemed to be happening with the empty premises until I happened to notice that many weeks later builders were in and ripping up the concrete floor. The conversion seemed take months and after time I even forgot that anything at all was happening. Typically, when you turn your back, a caterpillar turns into a butterfly and the business became a brand new branch of Yo Sushi!
This was about eighteen months ago (rough guess) and I gave it a try back then in the early days. Obviously it wasn’t available for me now to get my coffee fix at lunch but I put my adventurous hat on and sampled some of their coloured bowls of Japanese food on a conveyor belt. Each bowl is price coded and you present your empty bowls at the conclusion of your meal to pay the bill. I particularly liked the raw fish and wasami sauce but didn’t especially warm to the miso soup. I felt back then that it was a ‘food experience’ rather than somewhere you would go when you were hungry and want a filling meal. My two or three bowls cost me something in the region of £10 and I still wanted to eat something more substantial afterwards. Saying that I did enjoy the novel experience.
Today I went back to try it again. The staff were still as friendly and helpful. I disguised myself as a Yo Virgin to get the full experience. Yo Virgin, that’s so funny! Everything was patiently explained to me and one of the cooking staff recommended a particular dish (Marinated Salmon & Dill) with lemon, dill and sesame oil marinade. I made my own choices by sight and variety just to try some new tastes. Outside it was throwing it down with rain with torrents of water were pouring down the street towards Weekday Cross. All of my choices came from ‘off the belt’ (conveyor belt). In no particular order I had the salmon – finely sliced raw salmon with wasabi, the crispy tofu salad and a sashimi tuna dish of sesame crusted tuna loin. I also chose a dish of thin sushi rolls (hosomaki) and dipped them in the hot green wasabi sauce. I would have loved to have given the Sapporo beer a try but at £6.00 a 650ml bottle I stuck with the unlimited fizzy water for a £1. The four dishes cost me just over £10.
The rain was still pouring down and after giving one of the female staff my ‘mugofstrongtea’ blog card I made my way across town to an Asian music and dance festival on the Market Square. There were a few people on the Market Square braving the torrential rain as the MELA event started. Along the side of the square were some Asian food stands equipped for the thousands of people expected to attend. I felt very sorry for them that the weather was so rubbish and the attendees so few.
On my way home I called in to the Nero coffee shop for a quick cup of tea before my bus home. I cajoled this female stranger into having her picture taken as I thought that she had the perfect idea – to be curled up in a nice leather armchair with a good book on a rainy day. Thanks again, to you Miss. Or is that – thanks to, Yo?