This review first appeared in the Guardian in 2002, but I am so inordinately proud of it that I want to re-issue it here. Not much has changed at Moshi Moshi Sushi since then.
The Japanese kaiten, or conveyor belt, restaurant has been with us for a few years now. Moshi Moshi Sushi was the first of these. As I watched the ceaseless flow of food passing in front of me, sitting in the restaurant situated above the teeming concourse and platforms of Liverpool Street Station, I was reminded irresistibly of the goods trains that clattered through the station near where I lived as a boy. From there it was a short step to the famous commentary that WH Auden wrote to the documentary film about the Night Mail Train in 1936, where the rhythm of the words captures the rhythm of the wheels over the tracks. And from there it was a long, painful haul to the following:
This is the food train bearing the sushi,
The bowls of miso, the tamago-yaki,
The nigiri special, the almond tempura
The nasudengaku, temaki, ikura.
Food for the hurriers, food for the rich,
Food for those with a raw fish itch.
Man in pinstripe, man in shirt
Woman in dark blue executive skirt,
Seizing the moment between deal and deal
To make the most of a one-stop meal.
Out stretches the hand, lifts the bowl
To feed the mouth of a stressed-out soul.
Feeding with eyes, feeding with mind;
Food of the healthy and slimming kind.
This is the image of modern eating,
Efficient, soulless, banal, and fleeting.
Down on platform and concourse
Palid commuter and shopper
Mill; look up at the board announcing departures
For Thorpe-le-Soken, Billericay, Hackney and Hockley.
Set on the dark plains of Essex and regions beyond,
Where consorts await them
In neat, executive dwellings.
With lights turned on.
Mouthful of ari, mouthful of kani,
Wafu for you, gyoza for two.
How easy to yield to temptation.
Each plate seems cheap in relation.
We never quite reach saturation.
In spite of prior calculation
The bill is far above its station.
Food circumstantial, result financial.
Dishes on colour-coded plates flash by fast
Just like a goods train trundling past.
A dish for the girl, a dish for the lad,
Three dishes for the solitary git, so sad,
Dishes for the needy, the seedy, the greedy,
Hustler, bustler, straight or gay,
Fuelling up at the end of the day,
Choosing in haste, eating at speed,
Fast food for the modern worker indeed;
Decent, tasteless, safe and sound
At the bar in the station where the food train goes round.
Around and above soars
A vaulting structure; celebrates
Victorian confidence and energy in wrought iron,
Celebrates engineering, aesthetics and permanence.
On Platform 9 the 18.10
Pulls out, – and then stops.
Just down the track without explanation.
Wearily we peck at our phones.
Perhaps it’s just as well we stopped
For a fix of rice and raw fish after all.
With apologies to WH Auden and Night Mail
Moshi Moshi Sushi, 24 Upper Level, Liverpool Street Station, Broadgate London EC2. http://www.moshimoshi.co.uk