Kua ‘Aina review: Hawaii comes to London with this sunny burger joint
Thai, Indian, Mexican… the average Londoner has probably tried most of these. With the capital such a melting pot of different cultures, you don’t have to leave Zone 1 to travel around the world – in culinary terms anyway! However, there’s a new region of cooking in the West End – Hawaiian. Now, being a US state, we tend not to associate Hawaii with its own cuisine, but given it’s located so far away from the mainland, of course it has its own food.
This is where we come to Kua ‘Aina (which means ‘back country’) - a Hawaiian restaurant which is the first UK branch of the original of the same name back on Hawaii’s North Shore. It opened in late 2012 on Foubert’s Place in Soho – a prime location just off bustling Carnaby Street. A friend and I booked a table for a cold March night and were immediately cheered up by the bright yellow exterior. Once inside, we were greeted by a waiter dressed in a Hawaiian shirt (of course!) and shown to our table. The restaurant had a surf shack meets diner vibe with wood panelled walls, retro Hawaiian posters, pattern lampshades and the odd surfboard mounted on the wall. The relaxed, informal atmosphere and strong Hawaiian themed interiors definitely helps with the whole escapist vibe so you can imagine you’re in warmer climes.
The menu is pretty simple, with burgers or sandwiches the main meals on offer, served in baskets. My friend opted for tuna steak sandwich, while I had a mahi mahi (dolphin fish) sandwich, which were chargrilled and served with salad, with many sauce options. I topped my mahi mahi sandwich with Monterey Jack cheese and grilled pineapple – well, I wanted to go for the full Hawaiian vibe! It tasted absolutely delicious. Chips can be ordered separately with a choice of sweet potato fries and skin-off fries. I must admit, while I did love my fish sandwich, my chips were lukewarm, which I should have complained about, but didn’t. Adding to the holiday vibe, you can order pitchers of beer, Sangria, white wine spritzer or cocktails. Rarely, we opted for soft drinks, with my friend ordering a smoothie. Imagining it would be freshly made, she was disappointed to find it was a bottled one you pick in the supermarket, so we found ourselves wishing we ordered the pitcher instead, it would have been a bit more fun!
Service was friendly and quick, although the amount of tables in the small venue mean you are really packed in closely together. While I enjoyed the food and interior and found the place good value, I think it’s more of an informal lunch venue, rather than a place for an occasion. I think families, students and young professionals will particularly enjoy Kua ‘Aina. It’s very good value, and for those looking for a tasty burger that’s a little bit different from your usual burger chains, then it’s a good option.
- Kua’ Aina, 26 Fouberts Place, Soho, W1F 7PP. Tel: 020 7287 7474. Nearest tube: Oxford Circus. For more information, visit Kua ‘Aina’s website.
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