When I first heard of the Knightsbridge based Zuma's darling new outside catering venture, I thought it would be a brilliant idea...for the Upper Class Twit of the Year race on Monty Python. Think about it, right in between jumping over the match boxes and kicking the beggar, the spoiled aristos could try their hands at dialing a simple number to make huge amounts of mouth watering Japanese food appear right at their doorsteps. Heaven knows it's too tough for these people to actually cook for their parties anymore. (And it would be quite a task to carry that grill out onto the race track without the hamper catching fire.)
But before making a rush judgment, I thought it would only be fair to find out some more information on the thing. That's why I talked to Zuma's ex-general manager (now the manager of Zuma Catering) Russell Norman, to get a little more of the facts. In a very nice gesture, Russell invited me out for lunch at their parter restaurant Roka to have a look around.
Walking into the empty restaurant at midday Tuesday, I was rather surprised. Instead of an entire room full of city boys and heirs to massive estates in the Scottish highlands, there were about ten darkly dressed waiters standing in a group having a meeting. Apparently, they had just opened. When Russell came out to greet me, I found it hard to decide what to look at. The trendy décor complete with a huge traditional Japanese robata grill lined with polished wood surrounded by walls made of thousands of individual stacks of paper, or the dark haired sleek Russell Crow look-alike (but less rugged and with an English accent) standing in front of me.
My attention soon turned to the food though as the generous Russell started ordering dishes by the hand-full. (Or mouth-full? Does that count as a pun?) Deliciously tender rock shrimp tempura with a hint of lime and a red pepper coating, extremely soft selections of sushi with a tad bit of wasabi nestled underneath the fish, small cutlets of juicy grilled quail straight from the robata...
I soon found out that my previous judgment about the Upper Class Twit race had been wrong. Even if I somehow managed to hijack a nuclear time machine from outer space and travel back to ancient Japan to learn the time honored techniques of the Samurai chef (or just steal some of his genes, since I'm so powerful now), there would be no way that I could ever cook food of that quality. In fact, the caliber of these dishes was so high, I started to doubt that I was even eating food at all, but some kind of god's ambrosia put here by a high divinity. If Roka, their little sister, had a lunchtime menu that was that good, Zuma catering must be even better.
No longer could I blame anyone for wanting to reproduce that type of splendor in their homes...or yacht parties, or competitive obstacle courses. In fact, as the restaurant started filling up, I kind of wanted to take the whole thing home for myself. After all, the catering business was created out of demand. 'The idea of Zuma catering is to allow us to say yes to those people we would previously say no to,' Russell says with a smile.
Maybe I have a chance...