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Is Rex and Mariano the future of restaurant dining?
August 3, 2015
The Russians are coming. Well they have been for a while, firstly it was Chelsea football club, then residential properties in Chelsea and now the restaurant scene. The Russian Goodman Restaurant Group behind Beast, Burger & Lobster and Goodman Steakhouses have opened up a casual Soho eatery serving fresh carpaccio, ceviche as well as grilled seafood.
When a restaurant is brave enough to put the names of their fish suppliers as the restaurant name, you have no doubt whatsoever that you will be getting the freshest seafood possible. They either come from Cornwall as supplied by famous Chelsea fishmonger, Rex GoldSmith or from Sicily as supplied by Mariano Li Vigni.
For premium quality seafood, prices are extremely reasonable: rock oysters are £1.75, a whole plate of clams for £7.00 and a filling fritto misto for £9.00. How do they manage this? Apart from cutting out the middle-men and going straight to the suppliers for their seafood, the deploy an iPad self-ordering system, so they only require about half the waiters they would normally need.
They haven’t invented the wheel here; self-ordering has been done elsewhere from the projector system at Inamo to the kiosks at Love’s Fresh Pasta. What hasn’t been achieved before is a system that isn’t gimmicky with an easy to use interface and an ordering system that is so steamlined, you can smell the seawater the crustacean or fish came from that morning.
Seafood is best when it’s cooked in a simple and unfussy way or just presented raw. The raw red prawns I ate just had olive oil, salt and lemon. The clams used just white wine, parsley and chilli. You could try making it at home, but you would never get the kind of top quality produce, they could source. Their raw prawns have that golden, gelatinous, raw texture that master sushi chefs would give an arm and a leg for.
The one dish we tried that had relatively more seasoning was the lobster ceviche which had coriander, yuzu, fennel and orange. Helpfully, Ali was on hand to give the difference between ceviche, carpaccio and tartare. Ceviche being a South American dish with seafood marinated in citrus fruits, whereas carpaccio is thinly sliced beef or fish often served with a sauce and tartare is raw fish or meat often finely chopped into cubes. They might be very similar but they all have their subtle differences.
Where there is room for improvement is their drinks menu. At the moment, there are no bottles of wine or spirits on the iPad menu. A simple tab at the home page to choose food or drinks should suffice. That is for upgrade to version 2 in the near future. Likewise, Ali had to explain the daily specials to me, when surely it would be a simple task to upload them onto the iPad system.
It might be a rocky road to convert restaurant guest to using an iPad system. They still give customers a paper menu on arrival as well. However, it does appear to be where our dining experiences are heading and that is no terrible thing, considering there are lower overhead costs for restaurant owners and more reasonable prices for restaurant guests.