Exmouth Market is a decent place to be if you’re hungry in London, but my favourite place to go to on the street is Necco, the Japanese cafe with the pink awning with a cat on it.
For those of you who know me and my
obsession love of cats, I assure you there are more reasons why I love Necco aside from its awning and its name. “Neko” in Japanese means “cat.”
The interior is bright and cheery, and perhaps a bit overly twee for some clientele, with its felt-covered menus, chirpy Japanese pop music and cute chopsticks holders in the shape of cats.
However, I argue that the perhaps-excessively cute interior is a welcome respite for those grey London days (which can be nice in their own way) and the dark winters. The service is really wonderful and as cheery as the decor, and I’ve seen repeat customers warmly welcomed whether they dine in or opt for take-away. As far as the food goes, it’s probably the best Japanese food I’ve had outside of my childhood growing up in Japan. For vegetarians, there’s so much selection, such as noodle and tofu dishes along with different sushi items. For omnivores, there are loads of delicious options as well. All the food is artfully presented with care and and attention to detail.
If you’re not won over on the food, my first experience with Necco was with a friend who was Japanese, who, after being doubtful at first had his doubts completely wiped away upon eating his sushi roll he asked for, which wasn’t even on the menu.
What makes Necco even better is that much of this food is available at an extremely reasonable price. You can buy sushi rolls as cheap as £2.50, and several other menu items are under a fiver. And the menu is wonderfully varied, with magnificent options such as soba noodles, onigiri, agedashi tofu, fried squid and grilled eel.
During lunchtimes, Necco has special bento boxes that are on offer, but I prefer to go during dinnertime, where I can get a bowl of kitsune udon, which is my favourite thing to have when I’m sick, as I was during my last week in London before my visa exile. A hot bowl of thick, thick noodles with lovely fried tofu is what to have when you need to feel rejuvenated, coupled with Necco’s yuzu tea, which is loaded with vitamin C. I had two hot mugs of that, which had bits of the yuzu rind and flecks of the yuzu pulp. So good. That particular meal of kitsune udon, two yuzu teas, an avocado roll and two inari pieces came to a little bit over £13. It was a lot of food (and a lot of tea) that particular time, but often when I eat there I can spend under £10 to eat. However, with Japanese bakery items on display for dessert, such as their really delightful green tea tiramisu, I often wind up buying (and eating) a lot more than I bargain for at Necco, but that’s because everything is so damn good!
I look forward to going to Necco again next year when I’m back in London. Until then, I’m afraid I’m going to be unimpressed by any other Japanese food offering I’ll be encountering while Stateside. Especially if they don’t have cute cat-shaped chopsticks holders.