Red Rooster looks like the kind of place P Diddy might go to dinner. A London branch of chef Marcus Samuelsson’s famous soul food restaurant, the remit might be historical Harlem cool but the look is super bling: think a Veuve Clicquot-only champagne menu and Louis Vuitton monogrammed walls (they’ve replaced the LV’s with little RR’s). It’s pretentious, but then again it’s fun. Maybe I’m pretentious.
Samuelsson is Ethiopian-born and Swedish-raised, and the menu here is a celebration of both Harlem’s ethnic mix and his own. The best dish of the night was the ‘Helga’s meatballs’ – juicy, indulgent spheres with rich, sharp lingonberry gravy. But the signature ‘Obama short ribs’ (first cooked for the man himself) came with a lot of wobbly fat and an undercooked dumpling. What would Obama say to that?
All this might have been forgiveable, if it wasn’t for the prices. Samuelsson has described the Harlem-inspired menu at Red Rooster as reflecting his conviction that, ‘through food, we can trace the history of poverty’. Marcus, my meal cost £140! That feels more like poverty tourism, for exceptionally rich people. Still, if you’re one of those rich people and after a hip hangout, RR fits the (large) bill.