Monday, 27 December 2010

Inamo St James

Apologies, dear reader(s), for the three week hiatus. December always seems to whiz by in a flurry of festive obligations. At the start of the month I was offered the job of Staff Writer at The Drinks Business, which I will begin in the new year, so the month has been spent tying up loose ends at Decanter, which I bade a fond farewell to last week.

Aside from moving jobs, December has also been characteristically busy on the event front. Earlier this month, when the first bout of snow hit London, I ventured out into the white night layered up like a mille-feuille to attend the launch of Inamo St James. Arriving fashionably late, the 300-cover Regent Street restaurant was heaving. Standing in line, I noted familiar foodie faces interspersed with the odd celeb - model David Gandy acted as an alluring window display, while son of Salman, Zafar Rushdie, was busy entertaining a Sloaney blonde.

I found my dining companion, David Joseph Constable, sinking a saké Mojito at the bamboo bar. We were swiftly ushered through the sprawling space to our electronic table by a statuesque waitress in leopard print. Billed on its website as an 'Oriental fusion restaurant with influences from Japan, China, Thailand, Korea and beyond' (wherever that might be), Inamo's USP is its interactive ordering system. Diners are in control of their culinary destinies and are at liberty to order as much or as little as they desire from the electronic menu over the course of an evening.

The E-Table technology also allows you to choose your virtual tablecloth colour and design, spy on the chefs at work through the Chef Cam, and even book a taxi home. In a spectacular display of generosity (it being the press night), we were given free reign on the menu, simply split into 'small dishes', 'large dishes' and 'deserts'. The first five minutes of my Inamo experience were happily spent in silence, exploring all the E-Table's functions. My opening move was to turn our tablecloth a tasteful shade of violet, then, at the push of a button, I ordered two raspberry lemon cooler cocktails, which dutifully appeared at our table mere minutes later.

Inamo is ideal for the techno-savvy Twitter generation. There's enough on the table to entertain you to render polite conversation with your dining partner obsolete. And if you did desire to communicate, you could always send them a text, or even better, a Tweet, from across the table. Aware of my anti-social behaviour, I engage David in conversation, proposing that we order some starters. 'I've already ordered three, I think', David replies. And that's the thing. It's impossible not to fall prey to kid in a candy shop over exuberance at Inamo, making it a dangerous place for diners lacking in self restraint.

So the starters arrived in their droves. We tried bite-sized baby crispy prawns served, chippy style, in a paper cone, transparent slithers of kelp marinated sea bass (pictured) served with shiso and soy, which were slightly smoked and utterly moorish, seared tuna coated in black bean and wasabi with creamy cucumber miso, seared scallops with a lifted, lemony Yuzu dressing, Dragon rolls filled with tiger prawns and crab salad, pencil shaving thin slices of marbled beef with truffle vinaigrette and (finally) yellow tail sashimi in a sweet soy, truffle sauce.

Considering the restaurant was operating at full capacity, serving hoards of hungry, sharp-fanged journalists, the standard of the starters was impressively high. Some dishes, like the scallops, failed to reach the standard I have come to expect in London, but others, like the sea bass, yellow tail sashimi and marbled beef, were unique, exciting and extremely well executed. I often find myself more allured by starters than mains in restaurants, preferring to experience a little of a lot, than a lot of a little. Nevertheless, we felt it only right to sample a decent selection of mains, if only for a rounded overview of the cuisine on offer.

David fired up the 'larger dishes' menu on our E-Table, and started placing orders. I did the same. This is ill-advised, as we ended up with three mammoth salmon dishes glaring at us for the remainder of the evening. The main event included exquisitely cooked silky black cod in spicy miso that fell off the fork, soft, creamy, saké salmon cooked in cedar wood and served in a deliciously rich Hollandaise sauce, zesty, juicy, orange-fueled Tamarind duck breast and pan fried salmon glazed with Javanese sugar, which decency forced me to abstain from.

Quite how we found room for pudding is astounding, but it was worth fitting in. My vanilla-flecked strawberry crème Brûlée topped with mint was the highlight of the evening. Our overenthusiastic ordering resulted in an eye-watering £180 bill, but an equally fulfilling meal can be had at Inamo for a fraction of the price, and the progress of your bill can be checked at any stage by pushing the 'calculate bill' button.

Inamo St James will be a success. It's modern, stylish and faddy, like London itself. On our visit, the house music was booming and bar buzzing with trendy types sipping chic cocktails and milling about next to the tables. A number of the diners seemed irked by this, and rightly so. The drinking and dining spaces at Inamo need to be more clearly defined. Like Kyashii in Covent Garden and Aqua in Oxford Circus, there's something of the 'clubaurant' about it. It's an ideal place to take a date with whom you fear conversation may dry up. And if it does, you can book a taxi and make a quick exit without saying a word.


  1. You and your crème brûlèe again! I loved the piece and your pudding choice made me smile as every time we mention c/b. Terrific!

  2. Welcome back darling! A complete joy to read! Loved it! T&T xx