In a world of do-it-yourself, where Waitrose makes you your own check-out-chick and most of us don’t remember the last time we processed a payment with an actual cashier (cashier? huh? the younger generation will find a useful glossary at the end of this post), Rex & Mariano are taking self-service up a notch. At this new Soho eatery you place your order, not with the charming bubbly ‘assistant’, but with a slim and sleek tablet: an ipad.
Rex & Mariano aren’t the first restaurant to trail order-by-ipad, but they are the newest and a further indication that the ‘technology-assisted’ trend is where casual dining might be heading.
This doesn’t mean the experience is robotic or sterile; far from it. The staff are personable and breezily. They explain the ordering process including the position of the ‘Help’ button to call a real life person if you get stuck.
You could think the techie takeover is just a bit of gimmickry but it doesn’t feel like that when you’re there. It just feels like someone wants to make the whole ‘grab-a-bite’ process easier and more efficient.
It’s quick, because you order exactly when you’re ready and you don’t have to worry about the waiter forgetting to pop the flimsy slip of paper on the spike or the chef losing it behind the stove. It’s also flexible; you order exactly what you want, when you want it. If you want more, there’s no hailing down the staff, you just punch another order of courgette fries into the ipad and it scurries through the ether to the kitchen. Voila!
For those worried about carrying multiple plates at once, you needn’t. The staff deliver your food when it’s ready. Which isn’t very long.
The menu is simple and contained. Don’t come with your fussy friend who hates seafood as there are not many alternatives, but if you’re a seafood fiend you’ll find yourself happily chowing down on some very fine, well-priced fare.
I’ve been a couple of times and the food has always been fresh and bouncy. They’re not fussy or over-worked dishes, so it would be easy to detect if the produce were below-par: no smears or shavings or dollops to hide anything untoward.
I loved the seabass cerviche which was beautifully seasoned and nearly leaping off the plate. Their famous Sicilian red prawns were tasty, but I think next time I’d try them raw as recommended, they lost a little of their verve in the cooking process. The courgette fries were totally addictive crunchy morsels with silky innards.
The interiors are sleek and the massive open kitchen is suitably sparkly and shiny. This is not a Michelin star experience and there are things that could be improved (come now R& M, that aioli is out of a bottle, isn’t it?) but pricing is very moderate for such good food in the centre of Soho, where rents are sneaking up and competition is fierce.
It’s not a stare into each others’ eyes sort of eatery, but for affordable, quality seafood it does the job. And because you’re doing a bit of DIY, you only pay a 5% service charge. You’re worth 7% aren’t you?
Other Soho Seafood options:
Check our review of Randall and Aubin here