Hare and Tortoise serves sushi and Japanese dishes at bargain prices! My first visit to a Hare and Tortoise restaurant was about two years ago when a friend and I decided to try out the Ealing Branch. Since then I have become a regular customer and have also tried out the branches in Kensington and Bloomsbury. I have found that their food is consistently good and for a great price!
* * * *Restaurant* * * *
There are 5 different branches of Hare and Tortoise scattered around London. I have only visited the Ealing, Kensington and Bloomsbury branches but they can also be found in Putney and Blackfriars. All branches are conveniently located close to tube stations and are very easy to find. I am going to focus my review upon the Bloomsbury branch as this is the one which I visit most often. It is located in the Brunswick centre which I find a slightly nicer location with a bit more going on. It is always very busy despite competition from numerous chains, Strada and Giraffe are only a couple of metres away. Its an excellent place to stop off after shopping in the nearby shops or perhaps after a day visiting the museums.
The restaurant itself is very small. A lot of tables are crammed into a small space due to the popularity of the restaurant. The interior is very simple with no frills wipe clean tables rather than table clothes. Two sides of the restaurant are floor-to-ceiling glass windows which bring natural light into the tiny space making it look and feel larger. The bright lighting also helps the place to feel fresh, clean and modern. The décor is light and gives the place a simple but cheery atmosphere. This may not be the best place to go for an intimate romantic meal, it can be very noisy but I think that this all adds to the atmosphere. There is often a queue leading outside the door, particularly in the evening, but this usually goes down very quickly. I have never had to wait longer than ten minutes to get a table.
* * * *Menu/ Food* * * *
As I have mentioned above the restaurant itself very simple and nothing special. The real reason I keep coming back is the food!
The menu is a simple cardboard booklet with several colour photographs of some of the meals. The menu is split into several sections:
* Side dishes (I often choose a starter from this section from a selection of spring rolls, chicken wings, chicken dumplings etc)
* Tempura (Deep fried, battered seafood or vegetables all come with a dashi based dipping sauce)
* Nigiri (a type of sushi...sushi rice with a fish topping. Toppings include eel, salmon, octopus, prawn, tuna, crab and omelette.)
*Sashimi (raw fish thinly sliced)
*Donburi (raw fish served in a bowl of rice)
*Maki (sushi rolls with various different fillings)
*Sushi Boxes (a mixture of sushi)
*Ramen (a noodles dish served in a meat of fish based broth)
*Noodles dishes (many different dishes, choices of beef, prawn, pork, chicken and tofu)
*Rich dishes (includes curry dishes also salmon teriyaki and chicken fried rice)
I have never had any of the sushi dishes myself although my boyfriend once ordered a sushi box and I stole a couple of pieces. It was very nice and had clearly been freshly prepared. However, his meal was much more expensive than mine and less filling. His 12 pieces of sushi cost around £12 whereas my huge bowl of curry cost only £6. I would recommend the dishes from the ramen, noodles and rice sections especially if you are hungry.
I usually choose a starter from the side dishes section of the menu. My favourite option is the Panko Honey King Prawns. These are 3 deep fried prawns coated in very fine bread crumbs. The prawns themselves are quite large, about 4 or 5 inches long and come with a sweet chilli dipping sauce. The sauce complements the prawns really well. Although not the healthiest option they are delicious. The starter seems as though it is the perfect size but as the main meals are so large I sometimes find it better to share and save my appetite for the main meal. I have also tried the Vegetarian Spring Rolls which I found a bit of a disappointment, they are very small and although you get 6 of them they are not very filling. They are served with the same sweet chilli dipping sauce as the prawns. The starters (or side dishes) although quite nice do not match up to the main meals either in taste or price. The spring rolls are £2.90 and the prawns are £3.80 both these prices seem like a lot for what you get especially when compared to the great value for money main courses.
As I said above I think that the best main course options lie in the ramen, noodle and rice dish categories. My two favourite dishes have to be the Singapore Rice Noodles and the Tori Katsu Curry. The Singapore Rice Noodles come served in a huge bowl filled with the thin noodles, chicken, pork, prawns, onions, carrots, beansprouts, mushrooms and chilli. The sauce is has a bit of a kick to it but was not overly spicy. I could taste the chilli and could also taste lime. The portions are very generous. I have never managed to finish a bowl! There is also lots of meat especially lots of large prawns. The Tori Katsu Curry comes served in a huge bowl as well. The rice is white steamed rice which is quite sticky and you get a lot of it! On top of the rice is a large chicken breast coated in breadcrumbs cut into thin slices and a thick Japanese curry sauce. The sauce itself is light brown in colour, it looks exactly like chip shop curry. It has slices of potato and carrot in it. The sauce is not particularly spicy. All the food comes to the table steaming hot and has clearly been freshly prepared. The prices are excellent with both of these main meals costing £6 for more food than I can ever manage to eat. This is excellent value for a central London restaurant. I often ask to take home the food I couldn't eat if there is a lot left. They are happy to do this although they do charge 50p for the box.
* * * *Overall Experience* * * *
The service has always been very good at each of the restaurants I have visited. The staff although busy have always been attentive. On a couple of occasions we have had to wait a while to catch somebodys eye in order to ask for the bill but this has never been a huge problem.
Whenever I have been in a Hare and Tortoise whether at lunchtime or in the evening it has always been busy. However, I have never had to wait long for my meal which usually arrives within 10 to 15 minutes. The staff are friendly and very quick to clear away empty plates and wipe down tables, probably because there is always a queue!
I have on several occasions eaten alone after a long day shopping. People dining alone is something I see often in Hare and Tortoise and due to the informal atmosphere was something I felt very comfortable doing.
The last time I went to the Bloomsbury branch I took my sister, we shared at a starter then I had a rice dish whilst she had a noodle dish. We each had a soft drink. The bill came to £20 and we both had about half of our meal boxed up to take home! I have never had a bad meal from here. The food is always filling and delicious with great prices!!
I am not a fan of Chinese food. I have eaten various takeaways and restaurant meals over the years and can't say I've ever enjoyed any of them. However, some friends of mine were keen to go for a meal at the Hare and Tortoise and in the spirit of not being seen to be a 'miserable cow' I decided to go along. The Hare and Tortoise offers a range of Chinese, Thai and Japanese dishes, and the menus come with lovely pictures so you can get a feel for what you're ordering.
I managed to find a few things on the menu that I thought sounded and looked quite tasty, and I was not disappointed. They do a good selection of starters, main courses and they have several desserts to choose from. The food can range from the exotic and spicy (curries) to the more simple and, some may say, bland (duck with rice). They also do several veggie options. I thoroughly enjoyed my duck and I tried a sample of my friend's curry and thought it very tasty indeed. H&T has taken away my fear of Chinese restaurants.
We were served quickly and efficiently and our starters were brought out within about 10 mins. Similar standard of service for the main courses and desserts, although we did have to get the staff's attention when we wanted more drinks, but that's not unusual for a restaurant.
The prices are really reasonable. A three-course meal should only cost about £15, plus drinks. The seating was clean, modern and simple, although maybe slightly too crammed in (obviously due to the popularity of the place) but this is a good place to eat out for lunch or a light bite in the evening.
They have a website where you can view the menus also, and maps of the locations of the branches. www.hareandtortoise.co.uk
For large parties I would definitely book in advance though or else they may not be able to seat you very quickly.
There are always queues at the H&T (well, at the Bloomsbury branch, anyway) which are evidence of its popularity, but the queues do go down quickly so a 10-minute wait is about the most you should expect.
I first started going to this restaurant about 7 years ago. At first, I wasn't so keen and didn't see the appeal of this nice cheap and cheerful eatery. However, over the years, I have learnt to love it and now me and my friends go here for a quick bite to eat at least once a month.
This review is for the Ealing branch, located opposite the Haven Green and besides Ealing Broadway tube station.
38 Haven Green, Ealing, London W5 2NX
Tel: 020 8810 7066
Open 7 days a week,
Sun to Thurs 12noon to 11:00pm,
Fri and Sat 12noon to 11:30pm
Hare and Tortoise ("H&T") is a chain of 5 branches which are located in Ealing, Blackfriars, Bloomsbury, Kensington and Putney. I remember it was only the two branches (Ealing and Kensington) but it seems that the chain has grown to be so popular that it has now dotted itself around London.
The chain offers cheap and cheerful Chinese and Japanese style fast food. We're talking, Wagamama with a more authentic kick!
The Ealing Branch
Me and my husband attended this restaurant when it first opened. We wanted a quick bite and this place delivered. However, on the one occasion we'd visited, the workers had the background music to techno turned up to the loudest possible volume. So our experience wasn't great and we left it a good year or two before venturing back. First impressions do really count!
Fortunately, our second visit some time later was much better.
The décor is basic - standard clean and simple table and chair with quick wipe clean table tops. Tables look like they are bunched in twos, with the occasion four seaters. I do get the impression, however, that they are trying to cram in as many tables as they can in the limited space that the restaurant has. One reason for the small seating space is the kitchen is located near the front of the restaurant. When this place first opened, having the kitchen exposed to the diners and in full view was a novelty. Now, you seem to get there everywhere from Strada to Yo Sushi. I do like that set up though, despite it being so space hungry, because you can see the chefs making your food and they can't get away with unhygenic practices (which, incidentally, H&T's rival across the road, Coco Noodle bar, with it's kitchen at the back started getting so dodgy that it had to be shut down by Ealing Council for rat infestation....that's another story for another time!). So all in all, I have no complaints and I like the cosy feel.
When packed out, this restaurant can get quite nosy though. The hard walls and furniture seem to exaggerate the volume and you can find yourself shouting at your dining partner just to hold a conversation.
The restaurant operates a table service, similar to Wagamamas (minus that strange "writing on your placemat" activity that goes on at Wagamamas!).
The food is delicious and not at all pricey. I have tried a variety of dishes. Their sushi is fantastically fresh. O.K., not the best, but much better than your officially unauthentic chains such as Yo Sushi. However, warning, I have attended the restaurant on a busy Saturday once where I ordered a sushi set and my dining partner ordered a cooked noodle dish. The cooked noodle dish turned up within minutes but I had to wait for over an hour for sushi! Apparently, they only have one sushi chef working at any one time (due to the limited space in the kitchen, apparently(!)). It just so happened that when the rest of the world was having lunch, the one sushi chef decided to take his lunch! Hence my wait for over an hour because I had to wait for his highness to finish his lunch break and to prepare my sushi! So my advice, ask in advance if you want to have sushi on a busy day, something like "is your sushi chef taking his lunch now?" - that should confound them!
The cooked noodles are also very yummy. My personal favourite is their Singapore rice noodle - not overly salty nor greasy. It also comes with a wedge of lime on the side for that added vitamin C! My husband has tried their yaki udon but has said it isn't as good as the Wagamama one but he did say it tasted more "home cooked" than the Wagamama version.
Regarding their soup noodles, I have found these quite bland in the past and only tried it once of twice. Their curry soup noodles is visually too much for me in that the shocking red soup puts me off from actually enjoying and tasting the noodles.
As in many of these noodle bars, there are no deserts (boo!).
Overall, very enjoyable experience and so long as you don't expect fine dining experience or food, then you're onto a winner. Service is also mediocre but never offensive. A typical bill for two with a drink usually comes to £15 with no service charge.