London is loving the ‘dirty burger’ at the moment – gourmet, juicy meat patties served with flash fries, such as Cajan or rosemary salted. However, many of these American-style burger joints are lacking in style and feel like one of those ‘eat and leave’ places (my nickname for certain venues where you don’t feel encouraged to linger long).
This is where Dirty Bones offers something a bit more sophisticated and cool. Located in Kensington Church Street, DB is a basement bar and restaurant decked out in a retro style with a mix of booths and chairs. Low lighting gives the venue a suitable evening vibe, so it’s a great locale for groups of friends looking for cocktails and grub. I visited with two friends for a post-work catch-up so were keen to take advantage of the ‘Dirty Hour’, with 2-4-1 cocktails on Tuesdays-Fridays between 6-8pm. I was particularly drawn to the Top Dog (Finlandia Vodka, fresh strawberry, Chambord, lemon and Jeio Prosecco), which was fruity and refreshing.
When it comes to eating, the main choices are either hot dogs, bones (chicken, ribs or steak) and burgers. Although carnivores will be salivating over the carnivore choices, vegetarians are catered for with the Veggie Hot Dogs. The choice of dogs (pork, beef or veggie) are served four ways, ‘Classic Yankee’, ‘Brit Dog’, ‘Mexican’ or ‘Asian’. I opted for a veggie dog served in Classic Yankee style, which meant in a brioche bun with caramelised spring onions, French’s mustard and tomato ketchup. The veggie dog was really tasty and the packed-to-the-gills bun made the dish a lot more substantial and filling than a typical hot dog would be. The side orders looked particularly attractive to our empty stomachs and we ended up ordering way too much. We ended up sharing triple cooked fries, mac & cheese and dirty fries, which were gluttonous, but delicious.
Overall, we really enjoyed our visit. The venue feels more of a night out kinda of social spot for drinks and food, rather than a place for just a meal out. I would recommend for groups of friends looking for an informal, relaxed night out.
- Dirty Bones, 20 Kensington Church Street, Kensington, W8 4EP. Nearest station: High Street Kensington. Open 6pm to midnight from Tues-Sun. For more information, visit the Dirty Bones website.
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There’s been a boom in popularity of American cuisine in London over recent years, particularly the gourmet burger. However, most establishments offering the former tend to be more casual, informal affairs. However, one venue serving US fare is offering a more formal and sleeker environment to dine in. Jackson & Rye in Soho is one of three branches (along with Chiswick and Richmond) serving high quality diner-style food, with steaks, burgers, shakes and blue plate specials on its menu.
Located overlooking the junction of Wardour Street and Brewer Street, Jackson & Rye is an upscale New York-style brasserie. The L-shaped dining room has low lighting, muted interiors and a central bar. My friend and I booked a table for a late lunch on a weekday and were given the choice of seating by the window so we could watch the world go by. The service was typically American – friendly and attentive, but without being too much.
At our 2pm setting, my friend (having been awake longer than I) was ready for a proper lunch, while I (having risen later) was ready for brunch – my favourite type of meal. Fortunately both were available from the afternoon menu. My friend opted for the very good value meal deal of Steak and Fries with a glass of wine for £12.95, which is available weekdays from 11.30am-6.30pm. The dish is a Chargrilled Rump Steak with Smoked Garlic Butter and Rosemary Fries, accompanied with a glass of Macabeo or Grenache. The flattened meat was a huge portion and my friend said was really good.
Meanwhile, I managed to avoid temptation of the pancakes and sensibly opted for a savoury brunch dish from the extensive eggs menu. I chose a variation on an old favourite – Angler’s Oak Smoked Salmon, Scrambled Eggs, Country-style Potatoes and Spring Onion on grilled toast (£8.95). I was pleased to see a generous serving of salmon – more than most brunch venues offer – and the eggs were a lovely rich shade of yellow which ensured they were delicious, light and fluffy. The square fried potatoes were a unique, but welcome addition to the dish and really more-ish. I accompanied by meal with a light cocktail perfect for lunchtime – a White Peach Bellini (£5.95).
Despite our filling dishes, we managed to find room to share a dessert – after all, Americans do them so well! We shared a Pecan Pie with Rye Whiskey Ice Cream (£5.95). The pie was gorgeous and sweet, but the sugary-ness was toned down by the refreshing ice cream, which complemented it well.
Overall, I would recommend Jackson & Rye as a great brunch or lunch spot. If you ignore the row of Boris Bikes outside, you really feel like you’re sitting in some cool Manhattan eaterie thanks to the menu and design of the place. I loved the feel of the interior, which managed to be both contemporary and warm. A return visit is on the cards so I can sample those pancakes…
- Jackson & Rye, 56 Wardour Street, Soho, W1D 4JF. Nearest tube: Piccadilly Circus, Leicester Square or Oxford Circus. For more information and booking, visit the Jackson & Rye website.
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This venue is now permanently closed.
There has been a resurgence in burgers in recent years, and as a result, American diners are now popping up in London. Originally dismissed as fast food, American cuisine is now finding favour with foodies. Following the success of their first Chelsea branch, the team behind Honky Tonk opened their second branch by Clapham Common last autumn.
Located moments from Clapham Common tube station, with alfresco seating for the warmer months, Honky Tonk is an American-inspired diner, with exposed brick, plush leather seating and vintage-style artwork, giving it a very New York feel. Although most of the seating is at a regular level, unfortunately our party of five were placed at a high table with bar stools, which wasn’t as comfortable as we would have liked. The first thing that struck us about the restaurant was the noise. Honky Tonk prides itself on its vintage playlist and live music, but the volume could have been just a little lower. We were dining from around 7-8pm ish on a Saturday and could barely hear the person beside us talking. Admittedly, the DJ and musician were good, but it was still too loud. Our party was a mix of 20 and 30somethings and all left in agreement that the volume had lessened our enjoyable experience of the venue somewhat.
Noise and seating aside, everything else about the venue for a positive experience. Our waitress was very attentive and speedy and we gave her a good tip. All anticipating the main meal would be pretty filling, we decided to share a plate of Smashing Nachos (tortilla chips topped with smoked applewood, red Leicester and cheddar cheese, guacamole, sour cream and tomato salsa), which was swiftly demolished. Not too greasy, the nachos’ good flavour was down to the evident freshness of the ingredients. For our mains, most of our party opted for the Pulled Pork Sandwich (Slow roasted shoulder of outdoor reared pork smothered in barbecue sauce and apple slaw in an onion bun with a side of rosemary fries). My friends said the pork was cooked well, tasted good and was filling. As I’m a pescatarian, I chose the Halloumi Burger (Roasted aubergine, peppers, flat mushroom, lettuce, tomato, homemade burger sauce, grilled halloumi cheese and guacamole) which was really tasty. The halloumi was cooked perfectly so wasn’t too chewy and the burger wasn’t too overloaded so it was possible to actually eat it without making a mess (like some other burgers I have eaten!).
Accompanying our meal we tried some drinks from the short, but sweet cocktail list. The Over Proof Zombie (Triple rum with pineapple and passion fruit) was pretty strong, but fruity and zesty. I also tried the more refreshing USA Elderflower Martini (Hanger vodka with mint with elderflower liqueur) which was really good. The venue is renowned for its milkshakes, which I usually love, but we were strictly drinking alcohol on the night in question as it was a celebration so I didn’t get to sample.
Billed as a bar/restaurant, this is probably not the venue to come to if you want a relaxing meal. While the food is admittedly good and filling, the energetic ambiance means it’s near impossible to have a decent conversation. For those looking for a night out, there’s a fun atmosphere and is open until 2am on weekends so a good place to pop into for a cocktail or two. The food was enjoyable so I’m considering returning, but maybe earlier in the day or a weeknight to see if it’s a bit quieter.
- Honky Tonk, 16a Clapham Common South Side, SW4 7AB. Nearest tube: Clapham Common. For booking and menus, visit the Honky Tonk website.
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American burger bars appear to be the ‘thing’ in London right now. Successful restaurants are fast expanding into chains, with Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Byron and Honest Burgers just a few examples. In between the expensive gourmet eateries and the budget, fast food likes of McDonald’s and Burger King is – in my opinion – Tinseltown. A Hollywood-inspired (hence the name!), good value chain, with branches in Farringdon, Hampstead, Baywater, Gants Hill, Great Portland Street and Wood Green.
The Farringdon branch is open until 3/4/5am (depending on the night) so is a much better alternative than a greasy kebab shop if you’ve got the late night munchies. A friend and I visit the branch on July 4 (US Independence Day rather appropriately!) for a late lunch, which was just a couple of minutes from Farringdon tube and located in a basement near the newest branch of Burger & Lobster. Billed as an ‘American Diner and Milkshake Bar’, it offers a wide range of grilled meats, burgers, wraps and burritos. Some of the burgers are eye-wateringly huge – 20 oz for those with a big appetite – while there are also normal 5oz if you don’t want to go too crazy. The menu also offers Bollywood chicken burgers and vegetarian burgers too.
When we arrived, we were greeted by a friendly member of staff who showed us to a green booth. As it is located in a basement there are no windows, but the venue is decked out in TV screens, posters of Hollywood stars and features a mix of booths and regular tables. Being a late night venue, I’m sure the restaurant gets a bit of wear and tear by drunken partygoers so I did think the decor looks a little tired.
The hardest part of ordering for me was deciding on which flavour milkshake. I have never seen such an extensive milkshake menu in my life. I started off with a Twix chocolate shake, then a banana and chocolate one. They were divine and great value at £3.33. For my lunch, I ordered a veggie burger with cheese – a pattie served with a side of your choice (I chose mashed potato) for £7.49. Although I was expecting more from the venue’s interior, the service was fast and friendly and the food was tasty and good value. During the day, it was mostly students so I did feel slightly older, but I’m sure there is probably a very different clientele at 1am. Overall, I though it was fairly good, but I have other burger bars I prefer so not sure how often I would return. Would be a great choice for late night munchies though (particularly if you’re at Fabric around the corner) as the alternatives are not great. However, the milkshake choice and taste were brilliant.
- Tinseltown, 44-46 St John Street, Farringdon, EC1M 4DF. Nearest station: Farringdon. Open Mon-Thu midday-5am, Fri-Sat midday-4am, Sun midday-3am. For more information and menus, visit Tinseltown’s website.
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I’ve been hearing good things about Honest Burgers in Brixton Village for quite some time. Given I live fairly local, I can’t believe I haven’t been there sooner. Honest Burgers is a small burger establishment with a Bohemian feel in Brixton Village. The venue is a small space with seating both inside and out (although still under the cover of Brixton Village Market) – with cosy fleece blankets on the outdoor seating should you get a bit chilly. Given the size, there is often a bit of a queue outside, but it moves pretty quickly and the wait is definitely worth it. The kitchen area is open inside so you can see your food getting cooked which means you can trust what you’re eating. The simple, wooden interiors and seating means the focus is on the food – hearty, healthy and British.
One Friday in December, I joined a few friends with a wide range of dietary requirements (one pescetarian, one carnivore, one gluten-free and one pescetarian with gluten-free!) for lunch. The menu is simple with only a few options – burgers made of chicken, beef or vegetables with a choice of Mature Cheddar, Red Leicester or Stilton available on top. There is also a gluten-free bun, which both my friends on gluten-free diets said were the most delicious gluten-free buns they had tried. I ordered the sumptuous vegetable fritter – made of cauliflower, sweetcorn, shallots, spices, coriander and cucumber yoghurt (£6.50) with a side order of green salad (£2.50) as I was on a health kick. However, I did try a few of my friend’s chips with rosemary salt and they were absolutely delicious.
All four of us loved our burgers, which we washed down with mulled cider with two shots of rum (a festive addition to their drinks menu), while another pal had a traditional lemonade. The service was friendly and fairly fast given it was a busy lunchtime. One of my friends was visiting from Sydney – a city with high culinary standards – and declared it was the best meal he had had during his visit to the UK. This is going to become one of my favourite local food spots for sure.
- Honest Burgers, Unit 12, Brixton Village Market, London SW9 8PR. Open Mon 12-4pm, Tues-Sat 12-5pm, 6-10.30pm, Sun 12-5pm, 6-10pm. Nearest tube/rail: Brixton. There is also a second branch in Meard Street, Soho.
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