Ah, teenagers. So cool, so sophisticated, so hard to impress. Having got to the point where mine can’t even look at me without rolling his eyes, I thought I’d pull one out of the bag in the “I’ve still got what it takes” mum department, by taking him and his sister to one of the “coolest” restaurants I know – Inamo in London’s Soho.
No ordinary restaurant this one. The menus are projected onto touch-screen tables so you order your food and drinks directly from your seat. You can also change the tablecloth, adjust the “ambience” with different colours and patterns, play games like Battleships and even watch the chefs cooking your meal on the ChefCam. As you go through the menu, an image of each dish is projected onto your plate so you can see what it looks like before you order. That’s a nice touch, especially if your children are fussy eaters.
The concept is the brainchild of Oxford University graduates Danny Potter and Noel Hunwick, who got tired of trying to catch the waiter’s eye when they wanted to pay their bill at the end of a long evening. They created E-Table technology which they put into practice when they opened Inamo in 2008, and a sister restaurant Inamo-St James in 2010.
So what’s Inamo like and is it kid-friendly?
Firstly, the overall experience is definitely a lot of fun and kept both kids occupied and interested throughout the meal. The cuisine is Asian fusion so if your kids like noodles and Asian flavours then this will be something they’ll enjoy.
The menu is divided into Sushi, Asian Tapas, Classics, Soups and Curries and Desserts. At certain times of the day during the summer holidays, Inamo offers the choice of three children’s Bento Boxes: chicken teriyaki, grilled salmon and a veggie option (details available on the website). All come with rice, carrot and cucumber and a house salad for £6 a box which isn’t bad for a London restaurant.
My kids chose off the Asian Tapas menu; my son had the Korean Chicken Wings for £6.95; my daughter had Baby Pork Ribs for £7.50. Both said their meals were delicious and they ate the lot. I had the Miso Soup and a Thai Red Curry (vegetarian) which were really very good.
Operating the table is relatively simple and for our tablet-savvy kids should be pretty much second nature. Tech-savvy or not, it’s still a good idea to keep an eye on what your children are doing – we found the tables quite touch-sensitive, which might explain the surprise dish of Pigs’ Cheeks that turned up first (much to my daughter’s horror). The waiter was very understanding and the Pig Cheeks disappeared in a flash, but it did make me wonder how much gets mis-ordered by over-enthusiastic or just downright clumsy fingers.
It’s a slightly odd concept ordering your food without first speaking to a human being and I did feel slightly anxious that we hadn’t done it right, especially when the drinks (which we ordered first) took quite a while to turn up. Those drinks by the way are on the pricey side: £3.25 for a very small apple juice. However, once things got flowing it all seemed to work seamlessly – Pig Cheeks aside.
It was when it came to paying the bill that Inamo really came into its own. My usual experience of paying a bill in a restaurant goes like this: you call the waiter and tell him you want the bill, he disappears for 15 minutes. The waiter comes back with the bill, puts it on your table and then disappears for 15 minutes. He finally comes back with the card machine and you pay your bill. Half an hour later you leave the restaurant with cranky, restless kids and a slightly irate spouse. At Inamo, you press the button for your bill, the waiter arrives and the transaction is quick and easy; we were out in the street ready to go home in record time. But not before I’d had a chance to quickly check the table’s Transport option to see where our nearest tube station was.
So, yes – I loved it, the kids loved it and if you want to try a different experience with the children then this is definitely one for the list.
Getting the Most out of your Inamo Experience:
Do check the website for opening times and availability of the Children’s Bento Boxes. Without the Bento Box option you might struggle to find something your kids like, unless they are real Asian food connoisseurs
Do book ahead. Essential this one. We booked for 5:30pm on a Tuesday thinking the restaurant would be empty but they were actually turning people away at the door. You can book easily online.
Do have an adult sit on the same side of the table as your youngest child so they can help with navigating the table. (It’s hard – and stressful – to read the menu upside down)
Do check to see if Inamo accommodates babies and young children. The tables are quite close together and I didn’t see any highchairs. Personally, I think Inamo is one for the older kids and might not be as great an experience if you have babies or toddlers in tow.
Do have a look at Inamo’s Sushi Making Classes for Kids. At the time of publishing, spaces are still available for 29th August, 26th September, 24th October and 31st October. Price: £17.50 for one child, £15 per child when booking two or more.
Inamo – 134 – 136 Wardour Street
Tel: 020 7851 7051 for reservations