Continuing with new-found hobby of frequenting Soho for American brunch joints, I turned my attention to The Diner. Situated in the extremely happening Ganton Street/Carnaby Street area, it’s just a few minutes walk from Oxford Street, and thus, had it been a hit, would have been a go-to place for me to replenish my energy before doing weekend clothes shopping, which as you all know, is an activity that is oh so stamina-quenching.
Unfortunately for The Diner, whatever treats their menu boasted were all negated by the horrific service we experienced there. We had one blonde guy, who looked like a less attractive version of Liam Hemsworth (if any scouts from the restaurant are reading this review, I’d greatly recommend you sack him because me and the three people we were with were less than enamoured with his surly attitude toward us). My friend asked if we could sit near the back, when the restaurant was empty, and he just barked at her, ‘no, you sit here’. Furthermore, whenever I called him to bring us water, or that we were ready to order, he couldn’t hide his look of utter annoyance, as if he couldn’t believe the audacity of these twats to DARE to pull him away from his friend who he was chatting to, to order their food. To add insult to injury, The Diner helps itself to a handsome 12.5% mandatory tip for service on the food bill. Hilarious, given how we all but had to serve ourselves, with a waiter that was clearly pressed at his life decisions to drop out of fashion school, and chose to take it out on us.
Pictures of the food and drink I had is below.
The dish itself was good, a mishmash of many of my favourite things, and the drink was deliciously sweet, if a little overpriced at £4.20. But to be honest, this place could have the best food in London and I wouldn’t go back again because of that insufferable waiter.
Grade: D --
Update: 19th October 2014.
I went to The Diner in Shoreditch on Saturday. Whilst the menu and the prices were identical, the altogether more cheerful, less uppity service from the waiters and waitresses attending to us means I'm now happy to bump this place up to a B+. What a difference some good service makes, eh?
The eggs benedict with salmon were tasty enough, but I wasn't a fan of the haphazard addition of orange slices on the plate. It didn't add anything to the meal, and just seemed incongruous. Thus, the best eggs benedict I've had in London remains Café Richoux in Mayfair. However, the MVP at The Diner that I didn't sample in my first visit here was the hard milkshakes (milkshakes with a cheeky dash of alcohol in), specifically, the True Blue. Mainly blueberries, this was one of the few drinks I've had where it tasted better with the addition of booze. You have to try it out. For £8 you get a handsome amount (enough to fill a the glass in the first review, twice), and honestly, it's the most fun I've had getting tipsy. I also had a Strawberry Cheesecake hard cocktail, and that, by normal standards, would have been scrummy. But True Blue was in a league of its own.
In future, I may just come here for the milkshakes. Sod the food when the milkshakes are that heavenly!
Now that I have Tastecard, I have my pick of restaurants at which I can eat at for a decent price, so thought I’d christen my darling Tastecard at Joe’s Southern Kitchen & Bar.
Very generously sized in an old warehouse-style building and boasting some mouth-watering dishes, it brings the spirit of the Deep South into central London. The soft shell crab starters were delicious, and converted a crab-phobiac like me, although the chilli cup and taco starter was somewhat mediocre, and definitely was riding more on the 'fun' quotient of making your own tacos than on its nutritional or taste value.
The main menu boasted dishes that ranged from the straightforward (southern chicken, etc) to things that sounded altogether more exotic, or just curious. For example, Joe’s Prison Plate was presented as just that - a tray like something you’d expect to see in Orange is the New Black (a show I have become addicted to, just so you know, brilliant) filled with beans, coleslaw, rice, bread, but best of all, a healthy portion of pulled pork, which was unbelievably succulent. I think it must be the sauce they cook their food in, because every meat dish I had at JSK left me wanting more. The chicken itself looks nothing special, like something you’d expect to get from KFC, but don’t judge a book by its cover, because that, too, tasted wonderful.
With a Tastecard, a meal here works out cheaper than a visit to Nando’s, an institution which I’ve always found disappointingly overrated. So what are you waiting for? Get down there! The restaurant itself might be shabby-chic, but the food is simply divine.
Grade: A- Update: March 2016
I went to Joe's Southern Kitchen just for a drink, and was just as impressed with the collections of drinks on offer as I was by the food.
The bar staff were attentive and efficient and the American drinks were a step up from the usual pub selection. Naturally, being a restaurant, and there being a 12.5% service charge, it also works out a little more pricey than going to the pub, but if you fancy something a bit different, Joe's Southern Kitchen isn't a bad drinking hole in Covent Garden, in addition to being a delicious restaurant.
Last Sunday I went for brunch at Bill’s, and the Sunday before that, at Jackson + Rye, so it makes sense to talk about these two places together.
Jackson + Rye is brunch spot with heavy American influences in its decor, particularly that of the New York variety, all diner-style booths and a jukebox-type soundtrack blaring in the past. It boasts a fantastic range of egg dishes, of which I went with the salmon option, as well as offering macaroni cheese as a side dish, something that is a complete novelty to us Brits, who are used to having it as a free-standing meal. Seeing as I was there, I thought it would be rude not to, and indeed, was not disappointed. I'm of the belief that the more cheese, the better, and this side dish was all but drenched in it, and high quality cheese, too.
I went with my MSc lot, three of whom had the eggs with avocado, which was very well received by them. On my end, I adored the salmon, and welcomed it as a healthy alternative to the English fry-ups I usually have for brunch on a Sunday. The macaroni and cheese was wonderfully moreish, unashamedly dripping with carbs and made even better when I added a generous helping of salt. For dessert, I had continued with cheese, devouring a cheesecake of sorts, which came with its own berry sauce. It was artfully decorated and went down a treat, if being a little wanting on the portion-for-price ratio.
Overall, Jackson + Rye operated like an upmarket, slightly more high end version of TGI Friday’s. The few downsides were that we went at a very busy time, and thus, found it difficult to get the waiters’ attention, as well as the fact that they helped themselves to a 12.5% optional tip. Now, it says optional, so we didn’t pay it, but then, when we left, the waiters called us back in because apparently our bill didn’t add up. On a second glance, they realised that it did - we had paid for our food, just declined to pay the 12.5% gratuity because we didn’t feel they earned it. It was all a bit awkward, but I’m firmly of the belief that you should let people choose whether or not they want to tip you. That this place gave themselves a tip, and then passive aggressively chastised us for not paying it, means I am reluctant to recommend it effusively, despite how yummy the food was.
Bill’s boasted an altogether different palate of food: European dishes, as well as the hearty full English, and it was this that I had for brunch last Sunday. I loved it. Like my macaroni cheese at J+R, it was dripping full of carbs, and all the better for it, and the streaky bacon was done exactly how I like it (I’m picky when it comes to bacon). To balance out the salt intake, I had some sugar intake in the form of my first ice cream soda float and it was revelatory! Such was my noobishness when it came to this drink, that I didn’t clock that I was supposed to drink it as soon as the straw went in, meaning a substantial amount of it fell onto the table, but the waiters were switched on and instantly cleaned up for me, no reproach at all.
The upside down cheesecake dessert, whilst expertly packaged in a dinky clear jar and lid, had its proportions of textures a little jumbled up - I would have fancied more cream, and less biscuit, but it seems churlish to let that mar what was otherwise a thoroughly recommendable brunch spot, which will now be forever remembered fondly as the place where I had my first ice cream float.