Inamo describes itself as an Oriental fusion restaurant and is offering possibly the most innovative restaurant gimmick yet: an “interactive ordering system”. It takes Chinatown marching grandly into Soho.
The new cool kid in town, Inamo is the brainchild of two Oxford graduates, Noel Hunwick and Danny Potter. Tucked discreetly half way down Wardour Street this Soho eatery seems determined to let the reviews do the talking. So I will.
Having been open for only two weeks my first feeling was that to make a reservation for a Tuesday night would be somewhat pointless. However having been persuaded otherwise we arrived promptly at 7.30p.m. and were met by friendly and relaxed staff.
After showing us to our seats we were inaugurated into the mysteries of our table. The most unique, if slightly cheesy, gimmick at Inamo works by letting you order your own food, drinks, call the waiter, play games and even “set the ambience” using custom built interactive software. The computer images are projected down onto your table and you select things to look at – or play with! – by using a round, indented mouse pad.
This is definitely what you would call a low pressure dining experience; from the moment the waitress left our table we could order as and when we liked. If you’ve always had a longing to start with dessert or eat everything from the starter menu then here is the place to do it. As we waited for our food we amused ourselves by altering the “tablecloth” to different patterns and colours, and as each side of the table can control this separately it soon turned into a silly battle.
Sticking to the more traditional method we ordered our drinks first. The Chenin Blanc was very reasonably priced at £15.50 a bottle and I also ventured on to one of the unusual cocktails on the menu. Pomegranate, apple, apricot and lime it was wonderfully aromatic and extremely tasty to boot. If my wallet had allowed I would have happily drunk quite a few more.
For the food, we ordered the baby back pork ribs and wild boar rolls. Both were exquisite, the wild boar rolls were especially well balanced with a properly dressed side salad. The ribs were so good we ordered another course and decided to try the truffle marble beef as well. We were less impressed with this; although the meat itself was wonderfully tender it had been drowned in truffle oil – a drizzle would have sufficed – which was a shame compared to the other fantastic starters.
Having ploughed our way happily through the starters, we realised we should have been a bit more on the ball as we hadn’t ordered our main course yet.
After having a quick flick through what was on offer I opted for the hot stone rib-eye with three sauces and sweet potato puree, whilst my friend went for the wagyui onglet with soy braised yam bean and hijiki seaweed.
Unfortunately, it was at this point in the evening that things started to run a little less smoothly. We ordered both our mains at the same time and then decided to both add sides of black bean asparagus and rice a few minutes after. It was disappointing to receive the asparagus straight away then have to wait 15 minutes before the first main course arrived. Understanding that Oriental food is often “served as it is ready” we calmly ate the asparagus and waited. The next dish to turn up was the onglet and rice and then it was another 20 minutes before my rib-eye arrived, then only after we called the waiter. We decided to share our mains, being encouraged to do so by the waitress. Despite this encouragement no extra plates were provided and it wouldn’t really be an option for those wanting a more formal meal.
Despite the delays the staff were continually friendly and efficient. By this time the restaurant was full, so we were fairly understanding about it, particularly as the waiting staff were so charming and eager to sort out any issues we had.
The main courses were as delicious as the starters. Again the meat was very good quality; of my “three sauces” the yuzu soy and truffle sauce were very good, but the chilli herb was oily and the flavours didn’t complement the beef well. The onglet was delectable and a real meat eater’s dish. Both pieces of meat were cooked well, being browned on the outside and rare in the middle. As we both like our meat rare this was ideal – however if you prefer your meat well done there is no option for this when you order.
I declined dessert, but my friend picked from the rather limited menu. Vanilla and raspberry crème brûlée was something I wasn’t expecting to see on the menu of an “Oriental fusion” restaurant. After beating my friend at a game of Battleships the brûlée arrived, which was nothing exciting – an uncaramelised top and some cold custard and raspberries. The lemongrass coulis though was interesting.
Whilst waiting for the bill to arrive we struck up a conversation with the two ladies next to us who were down from Glasgow for a holiday in London. They were enjoying themselves heartily having accidentally ordered a few extra drinks and starters due to the somewhat over sensitive mouse pad. Yes, this is the restaurant where you can even blame the computer for ordering you too many cocktails!
When the waitress brought our bill we asked about the timing issues with our food. She replied that the restaurant was still ironing out issues with the computers, having only been opened for a few weeks. She did immediately comment that she would feed our remarks back to management – so hopefully all the creases will be straightened out soon.
So go, take lots of friends, order lots of different dishes all at once and relax the Inamo way, the experience is unique.
Inamo, 134-136 Wardour Street, Soho, London, W1F 8ZP. 020 7851 7051