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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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 station: Oxford Circus. For more information, visit Kua ‘Aina’s website.
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