I remember the first time I visited Stratford - when the Westfield Shopping Centre launched many, many moons ago - and, even then, I was a little perturbed by the neighbourhood that looked like the dictionary definition of a concrete jungle. But recently a restaurant opened up that meant I had to give it a second chance - Bamboo Mat Stratford. The eatery's owners and head chefs, Denis Gobjila (previously of Chotto Matte) and Victor Rosca (who's worked at the likes of Sushisamba, Lucky Cat and Roka) opened the first branch in Leyton just last year, whipping up Nikkei cuisine to the East London masses. It quickly gained great acclaim, and I couldn't wait to try it out for myself. So, when this new venue opened up? I of course had to brave the journey over.
Stratford wasn't as bad as I'd remembered; it still gave off a slightly dystopian vibe (everywhere was eerily polished and quiet), but now had lots of lush landscaped greenery, top-quality shops and, of course, fabulous restaurants. After plodding from the train station to the East Village, I found Bamboo Mat, sitting prettily among a row of other places to eat and drink. Inside, it was a laid-back affair, with wooden and teal chairs, spaced-out tables and a purple hue that spread across the whole floor. My favourite part had to be the open kitchen, where you could see the chefs hard at work.
We started the evening off with a crisp bottle of Waiau River Sauvignon Blanc (£33), a very dry New Zealand white boasting intense citrus notes that was sure to complement the numerous fish courses that were about to arrive. Speaking of which; delicately thin slices of the himachi tiradito (£13.40) came positively swimming in yuzu truffle soy, topped with small spheres of aji amarillo (which had a sweet almost floral taste) and fragrant chives. The sea bass ceviche (£11.40) was similarly delicious, arriving in a rich, tangy tiger’s milk, scattered with red onion shavings and bites of sweet potato.
To break up the fish feast a little, we then delved into the generous portion of padron peppers (£5.50), delightfully charred and paired with sticky mango miso. And the sashimi? Both the yellowtail tuna (£8) and salmon (£7.20) were fresh, great-quality slabs of gorgeous raw fish that were gobbled down in about two seconds flat. And though the aburi salmon nigiri (£7.10) was also scrumptiously fatty and succulent, the vulcano maki (£17) had to be our favourite of the lot. Eight perfectly identical rolls arrived topped with chunks of salmon, which were then theatrically torched at the table by our waiter, making them appear like a little sushi volcano.
Because there’s no such thing as too much sushi (surely), we also chomped on a few salmon avocado maki (£10.20), drizzled in an indulgent eel sauce, plus topped with a few crispy onions that added a nice textural crunch. Opting for one final dish off the mains menu, my dinner date and I feasted on the lamb chops (£18), marinated in antichucho sauce, elevated with coriander and a squeeze of lime - beautifully charred, these soft, succulent bites melted in your mouth like butter.
The DesignMyNight Digest
Let me tell you - Bamboo Mat seriously delivers on the food front, offering a delicious marriage of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine. Not only can you delve into a fantastic selection of classic and signature sushi dishes, but also a lip-smacking lineup of main courses for those with a larger appetite. So, if you're in the area and looking for some sushi? I'd highly recommend you give this one a visit.
💰 The damage: Just over £130 for two.
📍 The location: 21-24 Victory Parade, East Village, E20 1FS.
👌 Perfect for: Casual date nights and celebrations.
⭐ Need to know: Bamboo Mat's sushi is absolutely delish, especially the volcano roll - don't miss out on that one...