Eating out in London is incredibly fun. It’s exciting. It’s fresh. It’s diverse. It can also be expensive so when an offer comes along for 50% off food at the opening of a restaurant which already boasts a very popular, sister Soho location, you jump at it. This is exactly what I did with Inamo in Covent Garden during its recent ‘soft service’ preview however if you asked would I be in any hurry to jump back, I’d have to say ‘hmm…’
Opening on the site of dependably delicious former French restaurant Cafe des Amis, Inamo is super convenient to find on Hanover Street, just a few minutes walk from Covent Garden tube and it’s much bigger inside than it appears from the street. A cheery welcome was given and we were seated straight away despite being a few minutes early.
I was a little disappointed to find that here, instead of the interactive table tops I’d heard about in the Soho restaurant, there were just ordinary black iPads propped up on each table. Perhaps they’d been installed as a way of speeding up and easing the ordering process for diners but given that every order placed still had to be physically checked by a waiter who came and read it back to you, it seemed a little pointless and, when an additional order was placed later on and completely missed, a little futile. It also wasn’t exactly the most interesting of things to have stuck in the middle of your table.
Explanation of how to order was given promptly – although the couple sat next to us had to wait nearly half an hour from being seated to having someone come and do the same for them – and the menu revealed itself to be large & diverse with traditional sushi sat alongside retro classics and street food with lots of small dishes to share.
Hand on heart, the food here was excellent; highlights included a fabulous Scottish salmon ceviche which was velvety soft, thickly cut & delicious especially when paired with a bright and tangy citrus ponzu dressing, and a sweet paper cone of crunchy, deep fried baby Tiger Prawns which were amazingly meaty considering how small they were.
Glossy and sticky Korean BBQ wings were finger licking good in a way the Colonel could only dream of being and the lightest dusting of desiccated coconut added a nice crunch to the syrupy chicken skin while tuna & tempura prawn maki were the perfect combination of buttery fish, creamy avocado and crispy pieces of prawn.
Perfectly cooked scallops were charred on the outside but melted in the mouth and fat, bright edamame pods scattered with chilli & sea salt flakes were slap-your-friends-hand-away-from-the-bowl scrumptious.
Everything was beautifully cooked and served in generous portion sizes that I’d consider excellent value for money even at full price.
Unfortunately the service just couldn’t compare to the food. Drinks were painfully slow to arrive, getting to the table quite some time after the first plates of food and if we’d ordered complicated cocktails on a packed weekend afternoon, I could have understood the delay a little more. As it was, we ordered fruit juice and the restaurant was half full.
The afore mentioned order of a second round of dishes never made it to the kitchen and it took 3 different servers & 20 minutes to sort it out; using technology like iPads only works if it well, works, otherwise it’s nothing more than a fairly useless gimmick.
The last disappointment for us was the way people were seated. We were sat on a table for two that was smack bang, and with no separation at all, pressed up against another table for two. Given that the restaurant was not at any time full, we didn’t anticipate another couple being seated right beside us while other tables lay empty but that is exactly what happened. Feeling like you’re both on the most awkward of double dates wasn’t the ideal way to enjoy lunch with your other half.
It’s genuinely such a shame that Inamo proved to be a restaurant of two halves on this occasion; perhaps you could say it was due to them only just opening however I simply don’t think some of these issues can be excused because of that. If you have a gimmick that involves technology, make sure it works and if you have a large dining area, make sure your wait staff can look after it promptly otherwise all the great food in the world won’t bring people back when they have thousands of other restaurants in one of the most exciting food cities on the planet to choose from.