A US-style grill in Chalk Farm updating American classics with skill and intelligence - and the desserts will give your cardiologist a heart attack.
‘Twat.’ ‘Cow.’ ‘Wanker’: those of us who have ever worked ‘front of house’ in the past would expect this kind of abuse on a Friday night, when service would reach boiling point and the chefs would lose their cool. Afterwards, we’d sit down for a few beers, and all would be forgiven. These days, of course, all the cool, sexy restaurants have open kitchens, so you can see – and hear – all the action.
So it was with some admiration that we watched the chefs at this US-style grill. On the Friday night of the first official week, the place was heaving, the kitchen struggling to cope. No names were called. The cooks kept calm and carried on, while the equally professional waiting staff gave us sincere apologies, bringing out complimentary cocktails. Our main courses took an hour to arrive – but the food was well worth the wait. Having demolished a terrific seabass ceviche starter, we’d moved on to ‘Southern fried chicken’ – actually two fillets, flat-beaten and breaded like a schnitzel (with Japanese panko breadcrumbs, for a lighter ‘crunch’). Cooked to perfection, it came with another twist: a variant of a persillade (parsley, garlic and oil sauce), here made with wild garlic, and a few capers for sharpness. A side of rough-textured ‘creamed’ corn (spiked with shallots, garlic, coriander and chilli) was so good we’d have happily eaten an enormous plate of it. But praise be to baby Jesus that we’d left room for pudding – an outstanding pecan and bourbon tart so boozy it should have come with an ABV warning. The large, high-ceilinged room is edgy and sexy – dark walls, rusty girders and vintage wooden butchers’ paraphernalia – the music loud and rocky, but make no mistake: this is a slick operation (it’s owned by Des McDonald, one time Ivy chef and former CEO of Caprice Holdings).
Service was polished and attentive throughout, never missing a beat, even when the kitchen was on the point of combusting; we easily forgave them any delays. ‘Thank you so much,’ they beamed as we left, their brows showing not a drop of perspiration. ‘Hope to see you again.’ Hospitality staff of London: this is how it’s done.