Hidden along a side street in the heart of Covent Garden lies Inamo, the world’s first, and London’s only solely-interactive, restaurant. Inamo truly is a dining experience like no other, where the guest is given “complete control” of their meal.
The rooms are dark save for projectors attached to the ceiling above each table creating an interactive table space. These create a rather stark light, which causes even a slight spillage to stand out. I personally found it to be a little disconcerting but a fun experience all the same. We played around on the projection for a bit using a mouse-like object to try out different games or see a map of the restaurant and things to do in London.
We were unaware of the fact that you could order food off the table surface, I then quickly turned my attention to the tablets and proceeded with the whole process just via use of the iPads provided. The menu itself was easy enough to navigate, despite the little information we were given about the tech upon our arrival. This could be more of an issue to those less familiar with technology.
While Inamo stands out in a crowd due to its unique style, I was not bowled over by the food. It was good but not necessarily consistent. A meal will set you back between £40-80 depending on how hungry you are and how many dishes you chose. It works on a similar system to Wagamamas. The food arrives once it is ready, meaning you cannot pick and choose the order of your courses. It feels quite unconventional if you have never experienced this style of eating before and can clutter up the table as no dishes leave the table until the meal is finished and the bill is ordered.
While the cuisine claims to be a blend of Japanese, Thai, Chinese and Korean, I definitely felt like I was in a Japanese restaurant. I think the interactive aspect of it made it seem distinctly Japanese. All together, we consumed five dishes, all arriving quickly and within close proximity to one another.
A highlight of the meal was the Char Siu Buns. These three steamed BBQ pork buns were served with a pot of sweet chilli dipping sauce. The buns were almost sweet in flavour, surrounded by light, fluffy dumplings in a dim sum style. I would return to Inamo just for these alone.
The dish that I was most disappointed with, and would not recommend, was the half Crispy Duck with Five Spice. I found this to be far too dry, and unlike many other places where crispy duck is served, at Inamo the waiter did not remove any meat from the bone for us. This means that the dish was more work than reward. While Inamo claimed the duck was ‘Five Spice’, I didn’t find much flavour to it, I assume this was because being so dry the duck lost it. This particular dish was paired with the usual pancakes, cucumber, leeks (yes leeks not spring onions) and hoi sin sauce. The vegetables were fresh and crunchy and the pancakes were as I expected, but the hoi sin sauce was very thick and sticky. This added to the dry duck made for a below average dish. I was also disappointed with the price, which seemed overpriced at £19.95. I have ordered half ducks in the region of £15 before at far less established restaurants and they beat the quality of Inamo’s hands down. There are many other dishes on the Large Sharing Dishes menu that I would recommend instead of the duck, such as the two Thai curries.
As well as the buns and duck we ordered the California Roll from the Sushi section of the menu. I wanted to try some sushi from Inamo and these intrigued me because they contained crab. While they didn’t taste quite as adventurous as I imagined, I did enjoy them and they were a huge hit with my companion. The Vegetable Spring Rolls were pleasant and I liked the added addition of the Korean BBQ Ribs even if they were quite messy to handle!
As for drinks, I opted for a cocktail, which the waitress recommended. I tried the Tropical Tornado, a passion fruit and guava blend with a shot of rum, which the waitress said, would bring all of the different cuisines together. My companion tried the “Hop Inamo”, the restaurant’s signature beer and he said it paired well with many of the dishes.
As the meal was a celebration to commemorate my success in passing my patisserie exam, we decided to go elsewhere for dessert, despite the fact that the menu did look very tempting. I would be eager to try Inamo’s desserts another time as I have heard great things from many people and they are very reasonably priced.
Perhaps what I found to be most interesting about Inamo was how little the waiters and waitresses concern themselves with the customer. Because the menu is interactive, other than showing you to your table and briefly explaining how the digital tablets work, the staff leaves you pretty much to figure everything else out yourself. Because of this, the tables’ stay a little neglected throughout the meal. My dinner companion joked that the service was so good because there was so little of it. One thing I did note, is that during the meal, when I dropped my chopsticks, and before I could even reach down to pick them up, the waitress had stopped what she was doing and had rushed to hand me another set. I was very impressed by this, especially as she was occupied at the time. This gesture assured me that if you did need assistance with the technology, or anything else for that matter, someone would be probably be there to help you.
Inamo is a must-try for any tech-head who likes to eat well. It is a fascinating look at a more futuristic approach to London’s food scene. I really enjoyed the interactive aspect of it, allowing the customer to have some fun with their food. It was a novel adventure navigating the menu. The whole meal really is an experience, but it is not the place that I would visit on a regular basis. Although fun, it makes me appreciate the more conventional restaurants that are typical of Covent Garden. I am very glad that I finally had the chance to see for myself what lay behind the buzz of this restaurant. I would definitely return to Inamo at a later date. Perhaps I’ll try one of their other two locations in London.
London Lamppost Score – 3.5/5