Mural painting in Sushi Heads restaurant. Photo: André Ainsworth

Mural painting in Sushi Heads restaurant. Photo: André Ainsworth

Philip Lane might not seem like the most obvious place for a sushi restaurant, but that didn’t stop Naomi Simpson from opening Sushi Heads here two months ago.

No stranger to working with food, Naomi grew up in the kitchen of her parents’ restaurant in Osaka, washing dishes from the age of five; “it was child labour” she jokes.

Sushi Heads is, of course, first and foremost about the sushi. The fish comes from Billingsgate, is sliced thick (“The way it is cut in Japan”) and priced reasonably – a spicy salmon roll is only £3.00.

Complete with Pocky boxes and perpetually waving cats, Sushi Heads does a good job of conjuring up the feeling of a traditional Japanese sushi shop.

“I don’t think sushi is an art form – my sushi is for eating, it is about the taste,” she says.

But Naomi isn’t afraid to get creative with her ingredients, and says one of her signature dishes is KimCheese: kimchee spicy cabbage, Cheddar cheese and avocado, all in a traditional Japanese omelette.

Naomi says that when she first moved to the area, over twelve years ago, it was a different place. “My son was invited to a playgroup, so I brought sushi – and no one would eat it,” she recalls, “but I kept selling it at neighbourhood markets, stands, that kind of thing. And then I saw it was becoming fashionable.”

So was it a gamble opening a traditional sushi café in Tottenham?

“People do come to see the crazy lady who opened a sushi shop, but the community has been fantastic, so supportive. Everyone wants us to do well. It has been surprising – and very nice,” says Naomi.

And it does seem Sushi Heads is quickly building a loyal customer base. In return, Naomi tries to be responsive to the requests of her regulars.

A mixed sushi box at SushiHeads. Photo: André Ainsworth

A mixed sushi box along with chicken and salmon teriyaki at SushiHeads. Photo: André Ainsworth

“It’s been a cold spring this year, and lots of customers were asking for hot food, like chicken teriyaki and curry udon noodles, so I added donburi (bowls of chicken or salmon on rice or noodles) to the menu.” Even that will only set you back a modest £3.80.

Naomi is considering running some sushi-making classes, and sells all types of typical Japanese ingredients. “There is one man who comes here with his Japanese cookbook and I tell him how to make it” she laughs.

So while it might be easy to say that Sushi Heads represents part of the changing face of the neighbourhood, Naomi has been part of the community for a long time.

And Sushi Heads is here to stay too, if the tuna nigiri is anything to go by.

Words: Nicole Val

Photos: André Ainsworth

Sushi Heads,

205b Philip Lane, West Green, N15 4HL 020 8801 3111