Joe Allen

  • Restaurants
  • Brasseries
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Covent Garden
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New ownership since late 2012 has given this Theatreland old-timer a shot in the arm. Not much has changed in terms of decor; the slightly scuffed basement room still has the same happy mix of show posters and photos on bare brick walls, and a pianist still tinkles away in the evenings. The biggest change is in the much-improved kitchen, which is now producing decent-to-good versions of American brasserie standards. You’ll find big salads (including a punchy but balanced bowlful of avocado, pecan, bacon and blue cheese dressing), fish dishes (yellowfin tuna with avocado and coriander salsa was a good piece of fish exactly grilled, though the salsa contained little coriander), egg dishes, chilli con carne and steaks (a small sirloin steak was cooked as requested, and came with plentiful golden fries). Old favourites – the black bean soup, for example – remain. A membrillo-like strawberry jelly with roasted peanut ice-cream was, like the rest of the dishes we tried, good without being memorable. As for drinks, all bases are covered by a choice of reasonably priced cocktails, a range of US beers, a global wine list and properly made coffee. The other major difference is in the service: it’s now efficient and comes with a smile.


Venue name: Joe Allen
Address: 13 Exeter Street
Opening hours: Brunch served 11am-4pm Sat, Sun. Meals served noon-midnight Mon-Thur; noon-12.45am Fri; 11am-12.45am Sat; 11am-11.30pm Sun.
Transport: Tube: Covent Garden tube
Price: Main courses £10.95-£25.95. Set meal (noon- midnight Mon, noon-7pm Tue-Sat, 10am-11.30pm Sun) £16.50 2 courses, £19.50 3 courses incl glass of wine

Average User Rating

1.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:0
  • 4 star:0
  • 3 star:1
  • 2 star:3
  • 1 star:2
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Jeremy S

Was always my fave restauarnt & have been a regular since 1990. Unfortunately has changed since the new owners took over. You can still get a burger but where is the calfs liver & eggs benedict? Menu not a patch on before & service poor. Very sad.

Andrea M

Oh Dear! The food! Went to Joe Allen last night for dinner after a movie screening. Food not good - I had the Hudson Burger which is pretty awful - a scraping of crab with mayo and 5 or 6 prawns with shells on a brioche bun. Not good and certainly not worth nearly 14 quid. 


My friends and I went for dinner at this establishment this past Sunday and I am still sick from eating at Joe Allen's 3 days later. I had the Sirloin Steak medium rare and as I did not receive any sauce without paying extra, I asked for worcestershire sauce which I noticed had the top broken off. I waited and waited for a waiter to bring me a better bottle but gave up after a while and used the bottled there. One and a half hours later after returning home, my tummy began to feel queasy and I had to go to the toilet with diarrhoea. I still suffer from it today. My friends also felt a bit unwell after their dinners but not as ill as I am. I am very upset and disgusted at this terrible food experience and will certainly not recommend this restaurant to anyone except my enemies..


I have been going to Joe Allen since I was a little girl; that's at least once a year for 28 years... I went last night with friends having spent a substantial amount of time promising them the best ribs they will ever taste whilst reminiscing over nostalgic tales of Dale Winton bringing me my 14th birthday cake and Honor Blackman blowing my brother a kiss, all in the infamous restaurant. I mentioned to said brother that we were going. He hurriedly encouraged me not to bother as “it's just not the same". I disregarded his comments and, regrettably, booked anyway. I was hugely disappointed. It has noticeably changed and definitely not for the better. Yes the venue has been 'spruced up', but no-one cared that it was slightly worn out - a 1920s prohibitionesque bar should be and that was always part of the fun! In fact the only things that really needed a good seeing to were the loos and they’re still that very distinctive blue. The venue, some of the staff and Jimmy are still there (thankfully) but the food is completely different. We were offered (unnecessarily) three different menus on which none of the original fabulous Joe Allen options made an appearance!! No wings, no ribs, no ice-cream with hot sauce, wine no longer served in a carafe!!! Mortified, I bit my tongue and politely asked the waiter what was going on. He informed me that the reviews on the internet would confirm that the restaurant was the best it had ever been. Well, the calamari was generic and average at best, the burger was not a patch on Meat Liquor (or even Byron Burger for that matter) and the peanut ice cream and jelly was so hard that I required a chainsaw to hack through it. As well as the atmosphere, the only other thing that ever really drew anyone to Joe Allen was the food, which has very much died a death. I would like to make it clear that I have never taken the time to write a review before and am not intentionally trying to give Joe Allen's a scathingly hard time. I just think the new owners should really consider why people have been going there repeatedly for all these years. I mean, why would you take the two best-selling dishes off the menu? Needless to say, I won’t be going back again and so, for me at least, it’s the end of an era.


I agree with the Time Out review. The food is so tired and way behind what else is on offer in and around central London. The atmosphere however is always buzzing and the restaurant remains busy. The crowd is as old as the menu but like they say if it aint broke...


Shocking. Sparsely populated on a Saturday afternoon, but service was extraordinarily slow. The "off menu burger" is now listed on the menu, but wasn't actually available (I've had it in the Paris branch and it was fine). Instead I had a chicken salad the like of which I haven't had since the dark days of the 80s, when London restaurants were a joke. Utterly vile. Couldn't tell which elements were chicken and which were potato. Horrible dressing. Our dishes sat waiting on the kitchen counter for a waitress for 15 minutes. But the chicken in the salad certainly hadn't been cooked that day, so it wasn't in a hurry... My dining companion ordered a second glass of cranberry juice "without ice this time please". The second juice arrived in a far smaller glass to compensate for the padding that the ice offered in the original. They really have their eye on the bottom line here. London is absolutely jammed full of great pre/post theatre dining options. This is a pathetic anachronism. Someone should put it out of its misery.