Leila's grandson Danny loved his visit to Arigato
Continuing our series of contributor's blogs, Leila Ferguson brings us her thoughts and feelings as she searches for great food and lush places to stay, in Leila Sent Me.
I have been meaning to visit Arigato since it opened but I irritatingly and inconveniently broke my wrist. Luckily my incredibly patient and helpful DIL (daughter-in-law) dropped me off there on Wednesday for me to try the food before I interviewed either the incredibly charming Adrian or George, the chef, which I will do asap. George worked at Nobu, and locally Parasampia and certainly knows his stuff. I took Danny Lawrence, my grandson, as he is incredibly adventurous with his food, indeed he eats prawns whole, no mucking about peeling them. I love it when kids eat with adventure, indeed one of my next blogs of the Bladebone will include Alex Haines son Laurence who isn't even at school yet and eats mussels, prawns and olives. Yay to the food adventurers of now and the future. It is also nice that this is the invention of Bob Rae who does a lot for Newbury (West Berkshire Mencap need you Bob).
Back to Arigato. Charming setting and décor and lovely to see 12 well positioned iconic photos of Newbury. The general manager Adrian must know something about setting as he was involved in the setting of Downton Abbey and is utterly delightful. He was equally charming to my 11-year-old grandson which impressed me enormously. Danny was in heaven, he already wants to go back and absolutely loved virtually everything he ate with a passion. Our server Jamie was patient and kind and the place was so booked it couldn’t take walk ins, so if you want to go then book although you may have a chance at lunchtime.
The wine list was extraordinary, ten Chateauneuf de Papes, five sakes and a wide variety of other wines.
We started with some salmon sushi which was perfectly fresh and fatty enough to be flavourful, and something I haven’t had before but believe me I will again, crunchy tempura prawn crunchy rolls. The prawns were astoundingly fresh, I can vouch for how easily the skins slid off; Danny can't because he ate them. The crunch on the outside added a great texture to the sticky rice and soft fresh prawns, delicious. As you can see there was also wasabi and pickled ginger.
This one made me laugh as it was described as octopus balls and it took a few minutes after we ordered it for Danny to question the body parts of an octopus. However they were a soft texture with the occasional bit of tentacle and again a good flavour and a lot of bonito flakes which seemed to have a life of their own against the warm balls, like those ‘magic’ fish you get in crackers that keep moving and twisting. Great umami.
Probably Danny's favourite dish, tempura prawns but not like any I have had anywhere else outside maybe Hong Kong. The freshest of prawns, the lightest of batter and so totally moreish, a total winner.
Danny's roast duck ramen, the duck cooked perfectly, a good range of flavours and textures although by now we were getting quite full. The miso was a god base and the bean sprouts and spring onions were still crunchy.
My chicken ramen. One of those dishes that I wished I had been able to finish as it was absolutely delicious. The udon noodles were totally unctuous, the chicken was the right side of charred and again the vegetables were crispy.
Would I go back – yes definitely. We were cramped but that doesn’t affect my views. Lovely place, lovely staff, a good addition to Newbury.