Matt and Cat\'s Isle of Wight Eating Out Guide
Sadly we don’t think that Tomou is doing her bentou boxes anymore so this an an archive review. Picnics are fun! Eating sandwiches and...

Sadly we don’t think that Tomou is doing her bentou boxes anymore so this an an archive review.

Picnics are fun! Eating sandwiches and crisps in the open air, sitting on a blanket in a meadow or on the beach. However, picnic food soon loses its appeal when you are sat at your desk, eating sarnies and crisps, day after dreary day.

But what can the office worker do to perk up his or her work-a-day lunch? Rolls instead of sliced bread perhaps. Maybe pilchards instead of tuna – although your colleagues won’t thank you. Surely there must be some alternative?

If you work in and around Newport you now have the opportunity give the Tupperware and Wotsits a miss; in favour of a stylish bento box.

Bento box from Tomo Bentou

For the uninitiated like Cat, a bento box is a Japanese packed lunch, usually containing fish or meat and vegetables arranged in a compartmented box in a visually pleasing way. And, with Tomo Bentou, the bento box can be yours for a fiver including delivery anywhere in and around Newport.

Matt and Cat’s day jobs find them slaving away down Newport’s municipal salt mine. So, being in the right location for a delivery, they placed their order for a Tomo Bentou bento box. There is not much need to trouble with the menu as there is but one choice for each day of the week. This suited perennial deliberator Cat. Therefore, for M and C’s Tuesday treat they had Kaarage chicken and Hosomaki (rolled sushi). It’s worth pointing out that, despite what you’ve heard, raw fish is not involved!

Tomo Bentou menu for September 2007

Tomo Bentou menu for August-September 2007

Cat, in her eagerness to try A New Thing, had not read the menu properly and had failed to notice that Tomo Bentou requires 24 hours notice for an order. Having instructed Matt not to bring any packed lunch to work the day the order was made, she took Matt to Studio instead, which gave your reviewers a bit longer to look forward to their bento boxes.

Having communicated via email and the phone, Cat was pleased to finally meet Tomo when she delivered the Tuesday chicken to her eager customers. The bento boxes were unloaded from a cool box, Tomo explained the contents and placed the packages Cat’s hot little hands. A tenner was handed over and cheerful Tomo left to continue her rounds.

Bento box from Tomo Bentou

Presentation is important in bento – and these little boxes of delights did not disappoint. Beautifully prepared and laid out, each was wrapped with a ribbon and came with wooden chopsticks. Matt’s next concern was whether or not there would be enough food for him in the box. There was certainly much variety – the aforementioned chicken was nestling on a bed of lightly dressed lettuce, with cucumber slices and a quarter of an orange completing the salad. There was a slender piece of Japanese omelette and five Hosomaki (rolled sushi) with pepper or cucumber as their centre. It was a commendably healthy and balanced meal.


Matt demonstrates his dexterity with chopsticks on Hosomaki

Finishing off the contents of the lunchbox was a delicious piece of gari – pickled ginger both sweet and peppery in flavour, and a plastic fish filled with soy sauce. Matt and Cat carried their lunches into the municipal common room to coos of delight and intrigue from their colleagues. There the whole business of undoing the ribbon and unsheathing the chopsticks seemed to give an air of ceremony to the process. Matt and Cat soon discovered an important thing: eating bento is fun, and makes lunchtime seem a bit special. Following advice from one of Matt and Cat’s more cosmopolitan colleagues, they decanted the soy into one of the bento box’s compartments and used the chopsticks to offer the food up to the soy.

Soy fish

depleted soy fish

The food was really fresh, tasted delicious and offered an interesting variety of tastes and textures. It was the perfect amount for Cat although Matt chose to bulk his out with a scotch egg and a sausage roll!

Bento is unusual, and it’s more than just a novelty; these were good, well-presented meals. And the price – a fiver a day. It’s good value for this quality, and if you had that sort of money available for your lunch, you wouldn’t regret it. Although it remains perhaps a bit extravagant for daily consumption, a Tomo Bentou bento box certainly makes a welcome change from jam sandwiches. Meanwhile, Matt and Cat are already planning their next bento foray – it might become a monthly treat!

Email for menus and ordering.