Dave Stewart discovers a new Japanese culinary delight at the Stanton House Hotel near Swindon....
Japanese cuisine is considered something of a sleeping giant in foody circles. Despite occasionally flirting with the idea of becoming ‘the next big thing’, for one reason or another the average Brit’s experience still amounts to little more than those mediocre ‘sushi’ rolls purchased from drab supermarket chiller cabinets, a desperate alternative to an even sorrier sandwich. A sad state of affairs indeed for one of the world’s truly outstanding cuisines.
So it might come as something of a surprise that our very own Swindon is actually home to one of the UK’s leading Japanese restaurants, originally built to support the nearby Honda headquarters, but now open to all.
The Mt Fuji restaurant is part of the beautiful Stanton House Hotel, set in acres of idyllic parks and woodland and a mere 10 minute drive away from Swindon. The restaurant has been decorated with several respected accolades for its Japanese fare and, with the British palette becoming ever more adventurous they’ve decided that the time is right to launch a UK -or at least an ‘outside of London’- first – and that’s the awesome new Yakiniku menu.
To the uninitiated, which let’s face it will be most of us, Yaki means ‘grilled’ and Niku means ‘meat’. Got it?
Like all good ideas, this one is tremendously simple, but this is Barbecue with a twist. The hot grill is placed in the middle of the dining table and, once you’ve taken your choice from a sumptuous range of marinated meats (from top-grade, marbled beef fillets to thinly sliced, umami-laden Wiltshire pork), you get to sizzle the whole lot in front of you.
And, whilst you wait a minute or so for it to cook, you can eagerly tuck in to one of the many well-married side dishes, from spicy cabbage pickles, to marinated spinach and nutty bean sprouts.
With authentic Japanese favourites like Ox Tongue also available to sample, and a plentiful supply of crisp salad leaves and smokey BBQ miso dips to drizzle all over the meats, it is well and truly one of the unique dining experiences our region has to offer.
Wherever you live, it’s worth the drive.
Regardless of whether or not Japanese food is headed for a boom in Britain, Yakiniku has already earned its place at the top table of BBQ greats.