You could forgive me for thinking, nay hoping, that this restaurant would be some sort of country pub serving proper helpings of traditional British fare. In my head, Hare and Tortoise sounded like one of those rural pubs you drive past in a sleepy little village in the backend of nowhere, run by a sweet but ancient couple who were probably around when Aesop first wrote his fable. You know the type: pubs so old they’re practically inns. Or to put it allegorically: pubs more tortoise than they are hare. So you can imagine my surprise, if not slight disappointment, when we arrived at said restaurant – only to be handed Oriental menus. Confused, yes I was. Now, don’t get me wrong: I will always be partial to a little bit of noodle. It’s in my blood, after all. But I had spent the entire day in the office happily imagining, and I mean properly crafting, the dream burger I would be utterly devouring come dinner time. With fries on the side, of course. Those who know me will testify that really is no exaggeration. (I often wonder how I am still slim. One day, my metabolism will revolt in disgust against my rudely healthy appetite, and I will wake up positively obese. Until then, please keep feeding me).
But although my initial reaction to the Oriental menu (handed to me by an Oriental waiter, the clue was there from the start, wasn’t it?) was one of outrage – as my dream burger disappeared in a cartoon puff of smoke- I can now happily report that this restaurant is great. Yes, its name is cruelly misleading, and you often have to queue if you haven’t got a reservation (luckily I swanned straight in with my super-organised friend) – but the food is delicious and best of all, it’s cheap. The menu is one massive Oriental umbrella, covering everything from noodles and Thai curries to sushi and Malaysian rice dishes. The ingredients are fresh and despite the Western name, the food genuinely tastes authentic. Think Wagamama’s but this time cooked properly. And with comfier seating. Best of all, if you order a green tea, you are eligible for endless free top-ups all evening. Perfect if you back your epic conversational skills (as we most definitely did…peeling ourselves out of our seats many, many hours later). With various branches around London, this Asian restaurant chain is well worth a visit for tasty yet affordable food. And whilst the service can sometimes be a bit slow, if anything it just proves that, like the tortoise, slow and steady always wins the race.