For years now, students near and far have been spreading whispers of a small Japanese place in Brighton’s North Laine. Known for its cheap, cheerful interior (and a price to match), Pompoko is renowned as the place to go if you’re a student, and it’s no secret. I’ve been here before, many a time, but today (mid-afternoon on a Tuesday) is the quietest I’ve seen it. It’s a hot day so I choose the seat by the door – even when the place is rammed, it’s arguably the most spacious seat in the house.
Informality is the name of the game (expect a direct greeting of “eat in or take away?” as you enter), so I make my order at the bar and take my seat. Not ten minutes pass when my spring rolls (£2.40 for four), takoyaki (£2.60 for three) and Tori chilli don (£5) appear at the table. The spring rolls are fairly basic – veggies in a kind of weird sauce with a crispy outer – and I’m disappointed to find they don’t come with sauce. However, they do have a satisfying crunch, and my takoyaki (a small snack made up of octopus and tempura scraps) comes with more than enough extra sauce – a delicious mixture of mayonnaise and something brown that tastes like it’s from Worcester – for dipping. The Tori chilli don (fried chicken in a spicy, tangy sauce) is a little fierier than expected, and I regret not ordering a drink. However, the heat soon subsides, and I’m left satisfied as the waitress abruptly clears my table.
Perfect for post-lecture dining and celebrating an afternoon off, Pompoko is possibly the only way a lot of students will get their balanced meal of protein, carbs and vegetables this year (those six slices of pepper and sprinkling of cress totally count, right?) – and all for under a tenner.
Pompoko is at 110 Church Street, Brighton, BN1 1UD