Inamo, St James

inamo st james
The Machine Age

The Vibe

If it wasn’t for the digital screens built into the tables you’d be forgiven for mistaking this joint for yet another high-end Central London, bamboo-encased Asian fusion restaurant. Inamo isĀ in a swanky location, there’s a front of house, and the bar is rammed with media and corporate types celebrating a deal with sake shots before hitting Mahiki. However, thanks to the size of the place, a handful of the tables are secluded in a rather more zen space at the front of the restaurant where you can play with your food and date to your heart’s content. Everything is ordered by using touchscreen tables which not only allow you to scroll through the menu items (with pictures) and add them to a wish list, but also give you a live video feed to the kitchen, as well as other gimmicks to play around with. It’s fun and it’s gratifyingly distracting. Change your table cloth or play a computer game, the point here is that you have ammunition a plenty to keep the momentum in this date going. Awkward potential is down to nil here.

The Order

Whatever you click as it passes. This is fusion food with a very clear prejudice towards modish japanese options. Unlike a normal menu, you are required to scroll through all the options as you go, which leaves you over-clicking on whatever takes your fancy, only to find something better five clicks on. The food list grows but it’s hard to make yourself cull it once you’ve spent so long putting it together. There are several very tempting sea bass and fish choices, good sushi, a great (and rich) crispy beef salad and the odd but comforting appearance of a Thai red curry.

The Game

Sit down and acclimatise yourself to the set-up. At least the first 15 minutes of the date can be killed by playing around and discussing the bonus features of your digital table. Since drinks take a while to come, figure out how to order those first and then move to changing table covers whilst you wait, bantering about why you each have your own preference- nothing like a bit of mock arguing to warm things up. Once the drinks arrive, take this moment to finally tear eyes away from the table and onto each other. Grace this moment with a compliment about how your date looks, almost as if just taking them in (which you sort of are) then suggest you get cracking on the ordering. From here on out it’s a seesaw between playing with the gadgets and each other, essentially just resorting to the gimmicks if and when chat runs dry (‘um, what else do they have on here?’). Don’t stay too long though as it’s hard to get a flirty pace established here. Skip desserts (they take too long to arrive) and once the bill is paid either head to their buzzy bar or grab a martini at the W. However, if it starts to become clear halfway through the meal that this isn’t worth your while, you can check up on the progress of your bill online and assess whether to cut your ties and close tab. Harsh but fair.

The Faults

You are likely to over order, the playthings can be distracting and the drinks/edamame starters seem to take slightly longer than they would had you just ordered from a human.

Sex Factor

2. There’s something to be said for unmitigated human interaction and these table-bots tend to hog the limelight and diffuse the sexual tension. That said, the cocktails and bar scene do help.

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