Once upon a time in Brighton, sushi was a rare and exotic thing. Nowadays it’s found ten-to-the-dozen with takeaways, supermarket counters, high street chains and a couple of more upscale restaurants all getting in on the act, although that act tends to be a two-parter featuring bland tuna and the ever ubiquitous salmon. Perhaps with a poke bowl thrown in for good measure.
The first Japanese sushi restaurant I visited when I moved to Brighton in the mid 2000s was Moshi Moshi – re-christened Moshimo in 2010 and still under the same owners – and it was a sight to behold.
Amidst the twee twists and turns of The Lanes, the modernist black, red and white cube building stood out like a beacon in the otherwise rather bleak Bartholmew Square. A-buzz with chatter, light and movement, it seemed the perfect place for supper. And I was proved right as I think in the past 20 years I’ve eaten there hundreds of times.
For those of us with memories that can go that far back, Brighton was having a food and drink renaissance around that time. Independent restaurants had finally started to truly embrace local produce and ensure it was named on their menus; dirty old boozers were starting to offer edible food – indeed the gastropub was born; chefs were beginning to offer vegetarians more than aubergine pasta bakes; proper cocktails were replacing lurid toxic-looking concoctions; and – it’s true – the ‘coffeefication’ that has changed the nature of North Laine had scarcely even begun.
But, perhaps more fundamentally, consumers were beginning to consider how their food was grown and produced. Yep, sustainability was starting to enter mainstream consciousness.
Moshimo was at the fore of this seismic shift in both the city’s food scene and the ethical sourcing of ingredients, and it’s fair to say they are still market leaders to this day.
Ingredients are all traceable and at the pinnacle of sustainable eating. Salmon comes from Loch Duart – renowned as the most sustainable farmed salmon in the UK – whilst all the other fish on the menu is approved by the Marine Stewardship Council.
For over a decade they’ve run the global ‘Fish Love’ photographic campaign to raise awareness of overfishing that has seen some of the biggest celebrities in the world get naked and up-close-and-personal with seafood (if you’d like to see Miriam Margolyes with a well positioned John Dory then visit www.fishlove.co.uk, if not then click away).
But enough of the background, what’s it like to eat at Moshimo?
The restaurant is stylish but not showy. Whilst some adaptions have been made over the years, the heart of the restaurant remains the huge sushi train conveyor belt – the longest in the UK when it was installed back in 2000 – with a seemingly never-ending array of colourful and intriguing small plates of sushi, sashimi and fried tempura. Depending on the colour of your plate, you pay a differing amount starting from £2.90 and rising to £5.40. For lunch, I’d say you can easily eat well with three or four plates from the conveyor for about £12-15.
There’s also a pretty epic menu of chunky hand rolls, mini maki rolls and small hot dishes including pork ribs in sticky soy (£6.50) and a cod cheek tempura (£6.90) both of which are go-tos of mine. If you prefer a single main course then the chicken katsu curry knocks the socks off the competition and is filling and fantastically good value at £12.95.
It would be amiss not to mention that Moshimo are also pushing the boundaries of vegan dining, serving up a huge range of plant-based dishes including surprisingly impressive vegan ‘meats’. Personally I think the ‘squid’ kara-age and ‘duck’ teriyaki are impossible to distinguish from the real thing. This of course also means that Moshimo caters for pretty much all dietaries including dairy and gluten-free, although probably best avoided if you have a seafood allergy!
Moshimo has hit the sweet-spot for tasty, engaging, inclusive and fun dining at a good price for over 20 years. Even after all that time, there is nothing that quite compares anywhere else in the city. Now you know, there’s no doubt you’ll see me sat at the sushi train happily munching away sometime soon.
Moshimo, Bartholomew Square, Brighton BN1 1JS
01273 719 195 • www.moshimo.co.uk