Created by the founder of Pret, you know that Itsu is going to be catering to the more bourgeois end of undergraduate lunches. But Pret has earned a semi-monopoly for on-the-go sandwiches and for good reason, as the ethos of the shop rotates around fresh ingredients and on-site preparation.
The same mission statement probably adorns the walls of the Itsu kitchen. Their motto is ‘Eat Beautiful’, but it might as well be ‘Eat Simple’ or ‘Eat Fresh’. Which isn’t exactly a stretch when your primary dish is sushi.
But, for a primary dish packaged for busy lunches, they do it awfully well. The salmon and tuna nigiri – a staple of every sushi restaurant everywhere – come on their own in little boxes for under £4, or part of larger packs, like the famous ‘Health and Happiness’ set, which can set you back up to £8.
There are also crab and tuni maki sets, which offer a nice alternative to the nigiri, although the two types of sushi are very complimentary and often served together. Our recommendation, however, is the tuna and salmon tartare salad which only costs £3.79 and is, to use the complex food reviewers terminology, delicious.
If you fancy something hot then you’re in luck because the Potsu are excellent. Ranging from the £4.99 vegetable dumplings and noodles (our personal recommendation) to £6.49 duck and rice, they’re a relatively affordable lunch solution. For the fiver you’re shelling out, you get pretty much everything that you need for a meal in between libraries and lectures.
For pudding – a luxury, we don’t dispute that – the FroYo are delivious frozen greek yoghurt treats, that come with fruits like strawberries, blueberries and pomegranite, or, for those with a sweeter tooth, caramel or honey cashews. The ‘White Chocolate Dream’ and fruit cup are also worth checking out if, for some mad reason, you don’t fancy frozen yoghurt.
If the prices put you off (we think you need about 2 small boxes for a filling lunch) then Itsu have some great options in place for bar- gain hunters. A 15% student discount is available on everything after 3pm, while all sushi in the fridge is amazingly halved in price between 9:30pm and 10:00pm, the last half hour of trading, for a great value late dinner.
All in all, Itsu is a welcome addition to the Oxford landscape. Sushi that doesn’t try and mess around with anything other than fish, rice, ginger and a bit of soy sauce, and hot pots that comes in generous servings, all amount to an excellent, fast dining experience.