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A chef’s tour of Soho

London is undeniably one of the world’s best dining destinations and Soho is a hot bed for exciting and innovative concepts. In a bid to find out more about what is happening in Soho David Steel, our Group Development Chef, hits the streets for a guided food tour with EP Magazine. Here he tells us more…

Twelve professional, London-based, chefs on a food tour – not an easy job for our guide, Nicole, but it’s one she excelled at.

I’ve got to be honest I was a little apprehensive about the food tour because I know my way around London pretty well and I’m always trying out new places, I was doubtful she’d be able to show us chefs anything we didn’t know or hadn’t already seen. But I was wrong!

There were some real hidden gems. The tour took us along Carnaby Street and through the backstreets. We ended up in Kingly Court – the hidden gem of Carnaby Street – tucked away behind Hamleys and home to over 20 cafes, bars, restaurants and food retailers. Lots of the places here started out as street food concepts, like Pizza Pilgrims, who following on from their street food success now have permanent restaurants.

Whilst we were there we talked about the single food concept, which has been around for a few years now. With the likes of Burger and Lobster and Flat Iron which is renowned for its steaks all being part of that movement. Whilst there are some fabulous single food establishments most of us feel the concept only has a certain lifespan and these places will need to continue to innovate – let’s face it when you’ve been there once there is no need to go back…unless you really fancy that steak or lobster of course!

I was surprised to find places I’d never come across before and see such innovative use of technology, from Inamo with its interactive menu and ordering system to Rex & Mariano, a seafood restaurant, that enables you to place your order using an iPad.

Whilst we didn’t eat at Inamo I thought the use of technology was brilliant. They tried to make it a fun experience where a menu is projected onto your table surface, you can view pictures of the dishes, you can watch your food being cooked in the kitchen and you can select your own tablecloth and music. There’s also the option to use the technology to discover the local neighbourhood, order a taxi home and if you have kids with you they have the functionality for them to play games!

Apart from when you are shown to your table, there’s no need to interact with any of the staff at Inamo, the control of the dining experience is placed firmly in your hands. This was a lot of fun and the restaurant is clearly doing incredibly well but this won’t work in every restaurant.

Whilst technology definitely has its place in restaurants, cafes and bars, the reality is that nothing can replace face-to-face contact. The use of technology provides a lot of fun at Inamo but I wouldn’t want to control my dining experience every time I go out for dinner. Like others I want to interact with the staff and it’s important this is not missed.

It was great to spend time out of the kitchen and to see how Soho has changed. There are so many different ideas and oodles of innovative and creative concepts coming through – every place has a different story and slightly different offering.

Another trip down the ‘Soho Lane’ is definitely needed!

Don’t forget to check out our competition to win a free Sushi & Sake Masterclass for two, on the 8th September, at inamo St James, London.