New opening – Inamo, Covent Garden
Take complete control of your dining experience at inamo using the world’s first interactive ordering systems, both on tablet and beamed onto your table-top. Order your meal, choose your virtual tablecloth, view the chefs at work on ‘chef cam’, and much more, all through your interactive table surface.
What were your influences around concept development?
My business partner Danny and I happened to sit next to each other at a friend’s birthday in a restaurant 11 years ago, and were really struggling to catch a waiter’s attention for another drink, or to get the bill. We wanted to buy more and give the establishment our money but they weren’t letting us. Danny already had in mind ways of integrating technology seamlessly into the dining experience, and we brainstormed it at the time and from that point on worked on it together. We thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to reach down, touch the table, and another drink would arrive…?”, and be able to request the bill when you’re ready to leave. We were very aware from the start, however, that the food is king in any restaurant, and that it was key to get this right.
We wanted to give guests control, and so from this initial concept Danny and I created the E-Table™ technology ourselves, having founded the company in late 2005. We opened inamo (www.inamo-restaurant.com) in 2008 to prove our concept, and our own 2nd restaurant inamo st james in December 2010, which relocated to Covent Garden in January 2016. At Inamo Covent Garden we’ve introduced a tablet based version of our ordering system and a productised version of our projection based table system that can be more easily and affordably retro-fitted into existing spaces and features increased animation.
When we began work on our technology for Inamo Soho in 2005 smart phones and tablets had not yet been developed. The tech we’re using there we created bespoke in-house. Unfortunately, this is very challenging to update in any way.
By moving the interactive ordering system onto tablets, and over the next few months increasing the features of the on-table projections (we already have chef-cam, patterns, animations of our inamo characters the inamob, and games, and will soon have the ability to personalise the images on your tables in advance and synchronise this with the colours on your tables, and even draw on the table surfaces). We intend to create a much more flexible interactive ordering and entertainment system that we can regularly update and develop with new features in a way that is not possible with our original system.
We also wanted to make the technology touch based, and make it easier for guests to browse our menus seeing more items at a time.
Did the skills shortage affect your ability to deliver the concept? If so, how?
The area in which it has become notably more difficult to recruit has been for sushi chefs.
How did you develop the menu and how long did this take?
Our Executive Chef Jon Claro spent time researching dishes from all kinds of Asian cuisines. Taking inspiration from various different dishes from diverse countries, he worked on traditional dishes, putting a twist on them to make them inamo’s own. The time it took was roughly 3-4 weeks.
What is your signature dish?
Jon’s choice is the tuna tartare – although it is a seemingly simple dish the flavours are very surprising. The tuna has to shine, but the sauce is just as important in making the tuna sing. I would also say that our hot-stone rib-eye, rich red slices of beef with aromatic thyme that you cook to your liking on a sizzling hot black pebble is an inamo classic.
What one piece of equipment is the most integral to your kitchen?
Probably the knives. Even though you need a knife for pretty much any dish in the kitchen, Jon emphasises that for the sushi section which is an integral part of the inamo menu the knives are really important. You can have the best piece of fish from the sea, but if it is cut wrong, using the wrong knife, it can ruin the fish.
Which other outlets do you admire or took influence from?
Jon really likes street food, and takes a lot of influence for our menu from the stalls and markets that he has visited. In his home, in the Philippines, you can walk down a street during the day and it is completely quiet, but at night it is totally transformed with street food stalls selling all manner of dishes.
Did you take food trends into account, if so, what?
At inamo, the concept is very much to share the food and that is a trend that is definitely being echoed in restaurants around London. Also as more and more people these days are taking pictures of their food, making Instagram and twitter-worthy plates of food is also very important so whenever Jon creates a dish, he’s sure to think about the aesthetics of the dish and the way it is plated as well.
What are the future plans for The Inamo brand?
We have plans to expand the brand, which we’ll be able to tell you more about soon…
Do you think advances in technology will improve/change the restaurant? If so, how.
This is one of the reasons that we’ve moved the ordering functionality onto tablet, as this allows us to more easily incorporate new technologies onto the ordering system, and the on-table projections. This will mainly be software based rather than hardware based in the short to medium term, apart from when we bring our AmbX lighting system online system which allows bespoke lighting effects to be created for private events, and to be synchronised with on-table projections so that as the colours of the projections change on the guests’ table the lighting around each table subtly adjusts to match. We’re also integrating new kitchen management systems that are electronically managed.