Itsu, the sushi chain at the heart of the Russian spy scandal, is having fun this week with a series of James Bond-inspired hoardings outside its police-protected store in London’s Piccadilly.
The in-house designs feature at the outlet where Alexander Litvinenko ate before being admitted to hospital with radiation poisoning.
‘An international espionage incident has transformed this Itsu into a world-famous meeting place,’ said the hoarding on Friday, as Design Week went to press. ‘Sad and shocked, we would like to thank you for the many e-mails of encouragement. Our customers and staff are magnificent.’
An iconic gun barrel motif appears to be Itsu’s way of communicating with customers and tourists who want to see for themselves the restaurant where polonium-210 was found – the substance that was responsible for killing Litvinenko.
The spy scandal erupted on 1 November when the Russian dissident was admitted to hospital. Over three weeks, his condition gradually worsened until he died from poisoning. Traces of polonium were found in several locations he had visited in London.
Itsu operations manager Glenn Edwards explained that hoardings, which have been designed in-house and changed three times thus far, are a spontaneous response to the situation. ‘We started off with a black hoarding, but a journalist from one of Britain’s less popular newspapers suggested it looked like ‘anti-radioactive’ material, which suggested something awful was going on inside, so we changed it to pink. The policemen who are stationed outside the building looked pretty uncomfortable with that.’
He says that when he and the 31 staff who could potentially have picked up a dose of radiation were given the all clear, the Itsu management team realised it could take the middle ground.
‘What has happened is very sad, but we want to let people know that we will be open for business in the new year,’
says Edwards. ‘It’s been a crazy few weeks.’
• Itsu has three sushi restaurants in London in Chelsea, Canary Wharf and Soho, which do not accept bookings
• Itsu in Piccadilly, Soho, is closed until next year after traces of polonium-210 – which were linked to the poisoning of ex-Russian agent Alexander Litvinenko – were found in the restaurant
• The chain has nine shops across London
• Original identity by Wolff Olins
• Store interiors and current branding by Afrodite Krassa