Posted on Monday, 8th December 2008
A few months ago I debated the merits of buying this smashing pair of Prada sunglasses. I mention them because sunglasses rarely look good on me and these ones did. However it came at a price of course, and so whilst my foxy inner angel in fishnet stockings and slinky stilettos went “go, go, go”, my sensible inner angel in her matronly outfit then counterattacked by asking if I could actually afford them. ‘Sensible’ eventually won over, but months later I kept wishing I had succumbed to my inner yearnings.
Sitting at dinner at Inamo, I was again washed over with that wave of “I wish I had bought those damn sunglasses”. Playing with the table, I was being blinded by the kaleidoscope of ever changing patterns and colours that were flashing up at me from this new toy every two minutes.
To explain, Inamo is a restaurant with an interactive ordering system. The menu is displayed through the table and once you’ve decided what you want, you order through the table. There are also games, even a function to allow you to call for a taxi home, and you can also choose the patterns and colours of your table to design your own personal look. But we were being all too clever, we were. We had decided on the random select mode and our table therefore changed patterns and colours every two minutes. So really, I only had us to blame for being blinded, by of all things, a table.
As clever as the idea is, it isn’t really as clever as it could have been. The imagery comes from a projector overhead, and you browse through the options with the use of a mouse function. Which means, when reviewing the menu, you have to scroll over the choices one at a time and not all the choices are available for you to look at simultaneously, which was perhaps rather impractical. It isn’t as clever as say, an actual interactive table which allows to you press a gamut of buttons. It was fun in the beginning and we all spent about 10 minutes fondling the table. But then the novelty wore off and we realised we were actually friends and ought to talk to each other.
However, talking did not seem to be all that important at Inamo, nor was human contact. It was clearly the table that counted. When you asked some of the waiters a question, they didn’t seem to realise they were suppose to answer you, or they would answer you in a way that didn’t make any sense. Like when I asked how many plates were the recommended norm and the answer I got left me more confused than if I hadn’t asked. I should have stayed quiet. Perhaps it was a punishment for talking or an attempt at a preventative measure: confuse the customers so they’ll be too weary to ask the waiters any questions.
Or when you try and grab a waiter’s attention at Inamo, they pretend you’re not there. Clearly you aren’t allowed to wave at them. Instead you must select the ‘call waiter’ function on the table. But then there was one time I did just that and still they didn’t come. What was a girl suppose to do? She’s got to eat after all. Was technology failing us?
As for the décor at Inamo, I didn’t much like it. I think the proper word to use to describe it is futuristic, but it was kind of like Alice in Wonderland on acid with spaceship overheads beaming down the computer projections towards the table. There were swirls and curls and other repetitive patterned motives on the walls. So then, like Alice, I got lost as to where to look. If you couldn’t look down, and you couldn’t look around, then perhaps what I had needed were eye patches and not sunglasses.
I had come to Inamo on a promise of a gimmick, so I had no expectations of the food, but the food was on the whole good and tasty. Chef Alexander Ziverts, previously of Cocoon, Eight over Eight and E&O, showcased an almost perfect rendition of a Nobu-esque black cod in miso sauce. The fish was soft, delicate and succulent, and the sauce was rich and thick and slightly sweetened. But as part of a £20 set menu served with edamame, a sashimi salad, crispy tofu, rice and miso soup the individual portions were rather small.
The wagyu beef as part of the £30 Christmas set menu was succulent and flavoursome but drowned in a soy-based sauce which was too salty. The accompanying dishes in the set menu included crispy prawns in a light crunchy batter, a lovely fresh lobster salad, edamame, miso soup, rice and a black sticky rice dessert. An additional side dish of wild boar roll with shiitake and asparagus (£6.50) was gamey and tender; a vegetarian red curry with butternut squash (£8.50) was rich and flavoursome, but was too creamy to be authentically Thai. All this I washed down with a tasty cocktail (£6.50) from a list of 17. Wines seem to hover around the £15 to £25 mark, and there are sakes available too.
We were given an hour and a half time slot, and on most occasions I would have been annoyed with such a policy. However, when our time was up, I actually wanted to leave. My eyes were hurting and I wanted to go home. However, in an ill twist of fate, we couldn’t because desserts had failed to show. We waited and waited. And then we waited some more whilst we tried to track down a waiter. And then we waited again for our dessert of black sticky rice with mango and lime sorbet turn up. How was this possible? The table had promised us that all food would be delivered within 15 minutes of ordering. We were then told by a human being that the delay was caused by a computer problem. Oh dear. Computer problems at Inamo? But then I was left to wonder how all the other tables managed to continually get their food orders.
Generously we were given two free crème brûlées. But then there was another long and dreaded wait for those. Clearly some timing issues needed to be sorted out. When the desserts did eventually turn up, they were quite delicious, the black rice pudding was crunchy to the bite with a tart lime sorbet added for a sharp contrast, and the crème brûlée was creamy and with a nice, crispy caramelised topping.
Usually, when restaurants stand the test of time they do so because of not only good food but also solid service and satisfying décor. It’s a complex mix of factors that can contribute to a restaurant’s success. Although the food at Inamo was good, I guess only in due course will we tell if its new concept approach will be able to pass the test of time.
132-134 Wardour St
Tel: +44(0)20 7851 7051