Otarian arrived in London to a bit of a fanfare with lots of press talking about how planet friendly the entire operation is. It’s a vegetarian takeaway joint made popular by the US and since I’m always intrigued to see how well the British tend to frown upon American trends, I had to go and see it for myself.

Going along to the one located in Soho, the first thing that strikes you is the bright lights, the neon signs and futuristic plastic chairing littering its location. Feeling like I was an ADD diabetic just given a spoonful of sugar, I found the whole place completely overwhelming to look at and looking at the handful of other people I wasn’t the only one.

Their menu isn’t exactly easy on the eye with everyone vying for you attention. It took me a good five minutes to work out what the different combinations made available to me and what I could order on its own. I ended up settling upon the “Quick Bite Meal”, choosing a toasted burrito wrap with salsa and a vegetable couscous salad combined with a bottle of water.

Otarian’s “inherit the Earth” philosophy is about reducing the number of carbon miles, so as an informed consumer, they label everything with how much carbon is used to produce or transport the meals. To be honest, this number is pretty much meaningless when you have nothing to really compare it to. What also concerned me is given how “Earth friendly” the chain claims, the amount of packaging associated with the meal left me stunned – with a hard cardboard box for the wrap (a simple paper wrap would do!), an even more solid and robust recycled cardbox box (a lighter, paper box would have been fine), each of these then wrapped in another cardboard element describing what it was (how about a pen writing on the wrapper) all then added into a paper bag with plenty of paper flyers telling me how utterly good they are to the environment. Hmmm… I didn’t buy it.

On the plus side, the flavours of the food impressed me with the burrito packing enough of a spicy bite and the salad a decent size I left it for a mid afternoon snack. It’s not exactly the cheapest meal around with their meal deal around £8. Despite joining up for their frequent diners’ club (more plastic!), I can’t say Otarian left an impression that really encouraged me to return. It looks like I’m not the only one who thought so.

Name: Otarian (closed)
Former location: 181-183 Wardour Street, London, W1F 8ZA

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