What? Riding on the success of popular Hawaiian dish, poke (pronounced pokay), Tombo simply describes itself as a ‘poke and matcha bar’. Basically, diced raw fish finds itself atop big bowls of sticky rice, edamame beans and other colourful goodness. It’s like a deconstructed sushi salad. The other half of Tombo is the matcha, aka the part of the green tea plant with epic superpowers (a glass of matcha supposedly contains 100x more antioxidants than a humble infused green tea) and here it makes its way into everything from drinks to dressings.
New? The third branch from the group, Tombo Fitzrovia joins sister sites in Soho and South Ken – it only opened a few weeks ago.
Where? Just off Charlotte Street – Fitzrovia’s foodie epicentre. Tombo Fitzrovia, 4 Windmill Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 2HZ, www.tombopoke.com
On the Menu: Poke novices can keep it simple with a tried-and-tested dish straight from the wall-mounted menu, whilst the more familiar can build their own bowl based on established likes and dislikes. To give you an idea, rice or courgette noodles make up the base; tuna, salmon, teriyaki chicken or tofu goes next, finally topped with the likes of edamame, nori, avocado and crispy shallots. Finish it with your choice of sauce, from the classic soy to the more adventurous matcha miso. Those with a sweet tooth can choose from their selection of healthy-looking matcha-based cakes from the counter to round off their meal.
The Look: Just as you’d expect for a clean-eating lunch destination, Tombo is light, bright, airy and minimal, with window seats and the counter as you walk in, and tables through to the back. Simple, sleek wooden furniture is given a bit of interest with a huge potted tree in the middle of the room – nab the table that surrounds it for the best seat in the house.
What We Ate: A newbie to the whole poke thing, my guest played it safe with a strong-sounding bowl straight from the menu. Cubes of salmon were tossed in with perfectly-flavoured rice and generous chunks of avocado, while nori, spinach and mysterious orange bubbles made it even more colourful. I went a little more off-piste, creating my own bowl with known favourites like salmon, crispy shallots (a must) and avocado, whilst an intriguing matcha miso sauce was new to me but a risk that paid off – none of that gritty, overpowering taste you may be thinking of. Both were great choices so I’m pretty sure that any combination of flavours would work.
We also gave the cakes, tarts, cheesecakes and ice-cream a little try, all of which were matcha-based. Tombo know their stuff and provide a handful of London cafes and patisseries with their goods. They were undeniably good so one to tick off the list but in future I think we’d stick to the main event.
What We Drank: Matcha is, of course, not only in the cakes and dressings. A watermelon matcha juice was refreshing, if a little odd, but the cold matcha latte was a highlight. Where matcha can be an acquired taste when warm, I found it much more subtle cold and even better when offset by almond milk. Think of it as a healthy milkshake.
Go With: Accompany your colleagues on your lunch hour, or arrange a quick catch-up with a friend who works nearby over a bowl of goodness. Even the courgette noodles are surprisingly filling and will set you up for a productive afternoon.
Final Word: Tombo is a welcome addition to Fitzrovia, and while it’s not the first I don’t think the competition is a bad thing – it does manage to feel unique. It’s time to do out with the meal deal and in with the poke.
Tombo Fitzrovia: 4 Windmill Street, Fitzrovia, W1T 2HZ
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Fran can be found sipping espresso martinis by night and, by day, on the hunt for London's best brunch. Bonus points for a runny yolk and the perfect flat white.