Man of the people? Ed Sheeran’s favourite restaurants show how out of touch he really is

On hype restaurant hub TopJaw, the singer said he once ate fish semen in Japan, his favourite restaurant is a £310 sushi bar in Mayfair and he pops into three-Michelin-star Core by Clare Smyth for a pint. Is Britain’s most streamed artist now too famous for his fans or is he more relatable than ever, asks Hannah Twiggs

Thursday 18 April 2024 13:34 BST
Shape of... ew! Sheeran told TopJaw’s Jesse Burgess about eating shirako – fish semen – in Japan
Shape of... ew! Sheeran told TopJaw’s Jesse Burgess about eating shirako – fish semen – in Japan (iStock/TopJaw)

Ed Sheeran, famously relatable man of the people, young doyen of the pop music scene, sits down at an omakase bar in Japan on one of his world tours. He’s more at home among burgers and beers but he’s also a multimillionaire pop star. He can do both. He digs into the peculiar dish before him only to find out that... it’s a “testicle full of fish cum”.

Speaking to TopJaw’s Jesse Burgess this week in a video on the social media platform, he was describing the experience of accidentally discovering the rare delicacy, shirako. He didn’t know what he was eating at the time. Personally, I’m surprised the sight of it didn’t give it away. I’ll spare you the gory details but while it’s common – or rather acceptable – in some parts of the world to consume milt, the seminal fluid of fish, molluscs and other water-dwelling creatures, in Japan the whole teste is on the menu. Something Sheeran certainly didn’t expect to be eating, nor me writing about.

For the uninitiated, TopJaw has made a name for itself in the last year with its speedy two-minute interviews with chefs, sommeliers and hospitality legends on their favourite places to eat in the capital. Questions range from best restaurant, best pub, best burger and best cocktail bar to best value for money, would most like to try and most overrated. Having apparently exhausted the list of potential interviewees who actually work in restaurants, they’ve turned the microphone to the celeb world. Ed Sheeran is the biggest name to date, garnering over 23,000 likes in a day. Most TopJaw videos get around 5,000.

Besides the semen story, it’s a revealing insight into the eating habits of the most streamed artist in British history. And, in many ways, a shattering one for his man-of-the-people persona.

Starting with his best restaurant pick: The Araki in Mayfair, a nine-seater omakase bar with a set menu that’ll set you back £310 per person before drinks and service charge. Seems fitting. You can’t get two tickets to a Sheeran concert for that. If I had his kind of money, I’d probably be eating at establishments like The Araki on the reg, too. He said it was “the closest sushi to Japanese sushi that I’ve found outside of Japan”, though thankfully no fish testicles are on the menu.

What’s more baffling is what he thinks of fish and chips. “Anywhere that does traditional fish and chips in London” is overrated, he says, because “one of my beliefs is that you should always be able to see the sea when you have fish and chips. It’s like getting sushi in Alabama.” Or in Mayfair. Can you see the sea from there? News to me. I agree that eating fish and chips out of polystyrene and newspaper in your lap on a pebbly beach while the wind blows sand into your mouth and seagulls swarm overhead imparts a certain kind of nostalgia only Brits will understand, but it’s surely an impractical choice. I’d rather be eating it in Mayfair. At any rate, it’s a bit of an old-fangled saying. The most you’d have to travel from anywhere to get to a British coast is around two hours. This isn’t Australia.

The out-of-touchness didn’t stop there. Favourite cocktail spot? Core by Clare Smyth. “Amazing mocktails, amazing cocktails, great beer, great wine,” Sheeran said. He failed to mention the great three-Michelin-starred food to the tune of over £200. Who goes to a Michelin-star restaurant for a pint, asked Burgess. Multimillionaire pop stars, it turns out. He’s also desperate to try The Ledbury – three stars, tick, £200 tasting menu, tick.

For a pop star who’s always eschewed the superficiality of fame – he’s known for dressing down on chat shows, rocking the no-haircut haircut and making cups of tea for journalists backstage while sitting on the floor – these aren’t the recommendations we might have expected. But then… what did we expect? He’d reached what could be considered the pinnacle of a musician’s career by the age of 24, with two chart-topping albums, four Brit Awards under his belt and a reported £45m in the bank. That was 10 years ago; now he has seven of the awards and £300m. According to this very website, he’s set to become the UK’s first billionaire recording artist. Were we expecting him to say Spoons?

In fact, he does say Spoons when asked where he thinks offers the best value for money. “I go to Spoons quite a lot at airports,” he says, though not for 5am pints like the rest of us. “I used to live in Guildford and a burger and a beer with fries was like three quid then. Probably a bit more now, innit. Inflation.” Well, at least he knows what that is. Going from £3 meal deals to £300 menus is quite the leap.

One of my beliefs is that you should always be able to see the sea when you have fish and chips. It’s like getting sushi in Alabama

Ed Sheeran

He’s certainly dressed more for Spoons than The Ledbury in an unbuttoned denim shirt (to be fair, it is a £180 Stella McCartney denim shirt) and a mesh baseball cap promoting his hot sauce, Tingly Ted’s. “I’m not just wearing this for the interview,” he claims. “I do wear this on a regular basis. If I’m having a bad hair day, I’ll put on this hat.” Oddly, we haven’t seen it before. He launched the hot sauce in 2023 in collaboration with Heinz because of his love of ketchup. He even has a tattoo of a Heinz ketchup bottle on his arm and previously appeared in an ad dousing his food with it at a high-end restaurant. What would The Ledbury think of that? He also hits up Mike’s Cafe in Notting Hill, which is so much of a greasy spoon that it doesn’t even have a website. Life’s about balance though, right?

Self-noms are famously banned on TopJaw but I suppose you have to make an exception for Ed Sheeran. The “Shape of You” singer also admitted to partying at his Notting Hill (are we sensing a trend here?) bar Bertie Blossoms after gigs – which he quickly rescinded upon realising that TopJaw’s 470,000 followers might include at least some hardcore Ed fans, or “Sheerios”. According to reports at the end of last year, the Portobello Road restaurant, which he opened in 2019, had racked up debts of up to £1m. Perhaps it was a clever name-drop. He could do with a few more customers.

Other faux-pas included nomming Patty and Bun as his best burger, despite once tweeting “Five Guys above everything” and appearing on a Billboard magazine cover eating their patties, which now hangs in the Covent Garden site; mispronouncing ristorante three times; and declaring The Devonshire as the best pub in London. You might have heard of it? “What I really like is they have a back room where they do tradfolk jams in and no one’s allowed to take pictures or video so you can just go in there and get as slaughtered as you want.” To which The Dev responded: “How do we not know that Ed’s been in???”

Sheeran’s Notting Hill restaurant Bertie Blossoms was reportedly in £1m worth of debt last year (Bertie Blossoms)

So what have we learnt? That the man who grew up in Suffolk, dropped out of school at 16, was homeless for two and a half years and slept in a heating duct outside Buckingham Palace, who spent all his money travelling to London to busk, search for gigs and find stardom, which he did, now frequents some of the glitziest establishments in the city. That the man who once enjoyed a £3 Spoons meal deal can now confidently make recommendations that, if you took them to heart, would, by my estimations, put you more than £800 out of pocket if you went to them all – surely a TopJaw record. That the same man who does that is just as at home in a greasy cafe, and loves ketchup so much that he had it tattooed on his body and invented a hot sauce that he takes with him to said glitzy establishments.

Perhaps we’ve learnt that he’s still just as relatable as he’s always been. Who wouldn’t flash the cash if you had it? The ethos of “treat yourself” has never been stronger than in Sheeran’s TopJaw video. He’s been grafting since the age of four. I’d say he’s earned a treat.

Then again, he couldn’t have said it better himself. When asked for his best bakery, he said Buns From Home, which Burgess pointed out gets quite a lot of the overrated heat. “Mate, anything that gets popular, people like to s**t on,” said Sheeran. Well, he would know.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in