Last month, I attended the Foodies SoMeetup event on High Street Kensington, where talks were given from some incredible people in the food industry, including Vegans of London founder Serena Lee, one of the founders of Jimini’s (a company that encourages the eating of creepy crawlies), and Rachel Kneen, the social media and marketing lead at Just Eat.
Turns out Rachel has my dream job. She looks at food trends and works out what it is the nation is eating (pizza was the most popular order in 2016, FYI), what they respond to, what makes a dish look tempting and therefore how to tempt you into eating something, and what is going to be the next big thing in the world of food (hint: purple food, vegetable yoghurts and insects are going to be huge in 2017).
After Rachel completed her talk, she invited everyone in the room (mostly bloggers and food influencers) to apply to become part of a new Pilot programme for reviewing Just Eat, and after a short application process I was selected and given some Just Eat credit to order in something from my local area (Reading) and review the entire experience. So, here goes…
It’s a Sunday night and I have £30 to spend on a takeaway. Now, that’s a lot of money for one single gal to spend on food, so I roped in my brother and his better half Daisy to be my dining buddies for the evening. Because I’m the blogger, I chose the restaurant we were to order from. Unfortunately, Reading doesn’t have many great options on Just Eat – unless you fancy a dirty Chinese or Indian, pizza or a kebab, you’ll struggle to find anything all that inspiring, which I have sometimes found that to be the case with Just Eat if i’m honest. It’s usually the app I go to when I’m drunk and just want something cheap, quick and quick.
However on Sunday night I wasn’t drunk (sensible working human) and didn’t want something fatty and MSG packed, so I chose to order our dinner from Sushi Mania. I hadn’t tried Sushi Mania out before, however both Jack and Daisy had been to the restaurant so I had it on good authority that this place is very good indeed.
Using the app is pretty simple. I downloaded it for free from the app store, searched by postcode and then cuisine to find the restaurant I wanted and then it was time to check out the menu. One issue was that Sushi Mania has a huge menu so it was difficult to choose, especially on an iPhone where you can’t really see the whole list at once, and naturally with sushi you have to order quite a few dishes as they’re usually quite small portions. Not a huge problem but difficult to get your head around exactly what it is you’re ordering.
Then comes payment. You can pay cash on delivery or by card. Easy enough.
The other issue we had was the restaurant added an extra 30 minutes to our delivery time, meaning we had to wait an hour and 15 for our food to arrive. Granted I couldn’t see how busy the restaurant was at the time we ordered, but it’s sushi! It’s meant to be the speediest of meals. I’m used to a guaranteed delivery time of 30 minutes with other delivery services, so we were absolutely starving by the time it arrived at 8.05pm – though to be fair, they arrived on the dot of their expected delivery time which is impressive.
So the food had arrived and it was time to dish up. We were in the middle of watching Girl On The Train so it was nice to be plonked in front of the telly for a casual Sunday night. That’s the luxury of a take-away: not having to cook and getting to sit with your hair in a messy bun, no make-up, slippers & DVD on and very minimal washing up.
I had purposefully ordered a selection of different things to test our how their faired in transit, including a Char Sui Pork Soya Ramen, Chicken Gyoza and a selection of Tempura. As the restaurant is located exactly 7 minute walk away I expected, with appropriate heat keeping bags, that it would all arrive hot and in tact, and it did. Well… it was warm, or at least hadn’t cooled to an unpleasant temperature. However one thing we immediately learnt is that time is a cruel mistress when it comes to tempura.
Rather than having a light, crispy batter, they were a little on the soggy side and they really could have done with an accompanying sauce that wasn’t soy – something with a bit more substance, maybe, like a Japanese mayo (I’m OBSESSED). The prawn tempura was the best but still would have been better with a crispy batter to add texture.
The gyoza was still pretty good and hadn’t suffered too much of a temperature drop, but the ramen on the other hand was the most disappointing thing in the order – completely lacking in flavour (it took several splashes of soy sauce to help it along) and while the pork was lovely, the noodles were a bit lack lustre. I don’t think that has anything to do with the delivery, I think this might just be a dud dish.
The sushi, as I predicted, had travelled well. It still tasted fresh, how i’d expect it to taste as if it had just been served straight from the kitchen in the restaurant. The Salmon and Avocado Roll and the Spicy Tuna Gunkan were my favourites, because they had the most flavour. The Crispy Duck Hand-roll was good but the filling wasn’t evenly placed so the bottom was just rice – no remnants of sauce or duck after the first big bite.
Jack wasn’t a fan of the Octopus Nigiri however I quite enjoyed it, though it needed a bit of wasabi and soy to kick the flavour into gear.
We finished our meal and tried to work out whether we’d received good value for money at £40 for the 3 of us, and we concluded that no, we hadn’t. Not least because 2 of the 3 hot dishes hadn’t been particularly enjoyable, one due to the flavour and the other due to the delay between cooking and eating, and as well as that, Jack was still hungry!
I think the issue here was that we had ordered from a proper restaurant designed for eating in, rather than a take-away, and therefore the prices were placed at the dine-in cost, and everyone knows restaurants include a premium on their menu for the use of cutlery, crockery, cleaning, rent and staffing etc. When you order the food to be delivered, you’re not getting all of those extra things that help you justify the cost, so when you are sat at home, eating out of plastic bowls but still paying the same price, you feel a bit cheated.
So the solution? I guess it’s to continue using Just Eat as my end of the night, dirty, guilty take-away delivery service and stick to actually getting up off my arse and venturing into town if I want to experience and enjoy restaurant quality food.
Since writing this I have actually eaten in the restaurant and can confirm the tempura is actually brilliant when eaten straight from the kitchen, AND if you dine past 10pm the a-la carte menu is half price. It’s a winner of a sushi restaurant!