Update 5 October 2016: Rex & Mariano closed and was repurposed as Zelman Meats. Apparently Londoners are keener on steak and short ribs, than prawns and clams.
Some introductions write themselves. You just need ten minutes of letting the fingers flow, a couple of functional paragraphs on the food, and a sarky conclusion to round it off. Job is a good’n.
I thought this was going to be one of those. Indeed I’d pretty much written this piece in my head on my way to the restaurant. Something along the lines of
“This is coming to you from my iPad. I write a lot of things from this and a bluetooth keyboard as it’s cheap, lightweight and mobile. Also, because there are few distractions when in the word processing app, I tend to be more efficient. The downside is I’ll have to finish the piece from my computer as the iPad only goes 80 per cent of the way. Much like the iPad waiter system this restaurant ...”
But I can’t write that, because it’s bollocks.
Soho’s newest seafood restaurant, Rex & Mariano, use iPads for their ordering process and it actually works really well. In fact I think I might even have loved it(?). The key interactions of ordering your food and asking for the bill are at your fingertips – and are easily and quickly done. It’s intuitive, reduces awkward hand waving frustration, and saves time. Importantly, there’s enough hospitality through the rest of your stay to ensure you still feel human.
All this left me stumped. Until I remembered that my One Good Reason posts were intended for precisely those moments when I want to get to the point and sign off more efficiently than I do in my standard restaurant write ups.
So you need to know that the whole iPad ordering thing works perfectly well; that the very fairly priced menu is stripped down into a fairly succinct selection of raw seafood, cooked seafood and sides; that, by and large, the raw bits are better than the cooked bits; and that the simplicity of the menu, and the food that is subsequently served, reflects the no frills casual nature of the restaurant.
You also need to know that there are oysters for £1.50 a pop. Also, tuna tartare is fresh, flavourful and generous and we liked the sea bass carpaccio, which is drizzled with peppery olive oil and ‘cooked’ by a blanket of acidic tomato pulp. Four parsley leaves would surely have had a better effect chopped finely and sprinkled, rather than left whole on top, but at £7 for a sizeable plate I’m not too bothered.
And I may as well mention that grilled fish, a fritto misto, steamed clams and other shelled items arrive and pass by … but for hot food I strongly suspect the best option is to plump for the fish of the day – our hake steak topped with monks beard was very nicely done indeed.
Whilst I’m here, let me tell you that courgette fries were okay, but a heritage tomato salad (a few croutons does not a panzanella make, guys), whilst generous, was utterly pointless. Even if they hadn’t been fridge cold, is it worth offering joyless tomatoes at this time of year?
Which means that all that’s left to say, aside from a quick note to mention that Rex & Mariano isn’t nearly busy enough yet, is the One Good Reason to head there is the line on the menu noting the availability of raw Gambero Rosso.
Head in, pick up the iPad, and get your first plate of these stunners headed your way before you even sit down. Than get another plate when you make your full meal selection.
Simply dressed with olive oil, salt and lemon, these red prawns are a utter delight. They’re naturally sweet, delicately flavoured yet defiantly flavoursome.
I urge you to rack them up. They’re breakfast, lunch, dinner and dessert material; essentially, X-rated hardcore prawn. Make sure to suck the juice from the heads.
Rex & Mariano, 2 St Anne’s Court, W1F0AZ, 020 7437 0566
One Good Reason
The (raw) gambero rosso. £10.