Food for thought: Driven restaurants

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Indy Lifestyle Online
It's late on Saturday evening, you've got friends arriving in less than an hour to watch The Eurovision Song Contest (it's finally okay to come out of the closet and admit you enjoy it), but there's no food in the house, or there is, but you can't be bothered to cook. What do you do? Pick up the phone. These days, you don't have to restrict yourself to the curry house on the corner or the local pizza place, you can now order food from dozens of different London restaurants and have it delivered courtesy of one of the capital's restaurant delivery services.

First to see the gap in the market were Room Service Deliveries (right) who imported the idea from the US and celebrate their fifth birthday this summer. Their bow-tied drivers now deliver meals to 8,000 Londoners a week, according to spokeswoman Andrea Nelson, who emphasises that they are not another fast-food service, but cater for people who want to eat in but eat well.

Customers include everyone from companies to girls on a night in, from parents with new babies to, of course, those who want to cunningly impress guests. "We do get some people who ring and say they must have the food delivered at 7.30pm as their guests are arriving at eight," says Nelson.

"When the driver arrives, they then transfer everything into their own dishes and put the food in the oven. They get chopping boards out, make a bit of mess, steam up the windows and pass the meal off as their own, especially guys who want to win over a woman!"

Room Service Deliveries (tel: 0171-431 5555 fax: 0171-433 3300)

Serves North West and Central London and the City. Their menu directories feature more than a dozen different kinds of food, from restaurants such as Chutney Mary and Ken Lo's Memories of China.

They levy a pounds 4 delivery charge, and the food, which arrives in an hour, is the same price as eating in the restaurant.

Room Service also offer a pick-up service where, for an additional pounds 1.50, your driver will get you anything from newspapers and milk to cigarettes and condoms.

Restaurant Express (0645 182838)

The new kids on the block. They currently serve NE, SW, and SE London and the City, but plan to cover the M25 by the end of the year. Each directory lists about a dozen local restaurants. pounds 4 for delivery.

They are the only company prepared to venture out to the social Siberia of South East London where I live. They promise delivery in an hour, but it was a stomach-rumbling two and a half hours before our lunch arrived.

This is a national company and all orders are taken from a call centre in Liverpool, which might explain the delay.

After being continually fobbed off, we eventually rang the restaurant our food was coming from. They told us they had just received our order, one and a half hours after we had placed it. This was half an hour after the call centre had told us the driver was at the restaurant and was about to deliver our food.

Of course, this may just be teething problems, but, if you want to take advantage of their 10 per cent discount for World Cup matches, be warned - it may be extra time before you get your starter!

Yo Sushi (Tel: 0171-287 0443 Fax: 0171-287 0706)

Avoid the queues at their restaurants and get your sushi delivered on one of their specially imported Honda three-wheeled bikes.

On offer is a selection of dishes from vegetarian sushi (pounds 9) to Roll Platters (pounds 50). They mainly deliver in central London, but will serve other areas by arrangement. They have been known to venture as far afield as Brixton.

Delivery is pounds 4, pounds 5 or pounds 6, depending on where you live. Minimum order pounds 10. Credit and debit cards only.

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