"It's not much but it's ours"

Sunday, February 26, 2006


Last night, my chum Scott and I were talking about the joys of short order cooking. Both of us agreed that it is one of America's great contributions to the world of cookery and one that is under appreciated both in the US and elsewhere.

A few years ago, my colleague, Zaro and I were meeting with another collegue at Chicago airport. Arriving after a brutally early morning start and grim flight from NYC, we were desperate for breakfast. The only place close was one of the airport hotels. We trudged over there dragging our heavy bags and found ourselves in a workaday restaurant of a Hilton or Renaissance or one of the other non descript hotels that litter the surrounds of a major airport. The breakfast on offer was a standard buffet, but alongside the tired looking fruit, pastries ( all reeking of cinamon which is, I think, the pervading smell of america for me ) and cereal was one man surrounded by six or so burners whizzing up scrambled eggs and omlettes to order. This guy was amazing. He had six or more orders on the go at any one time, all the while taking the next round of orders and all the time making sure that everything came out exactly as requested. He was playing those frying pans like Patrick Moore playing the Xylophone. When I expressed my admiration for his skills, he replied nonchalantly. "Man, you just gotta be smarter than the skillet" Such a perfect description of short order cooking and a suitable preamble to our lunch today.

Hermano Primero had a day of dining yesterday ( Anthony's in Leeds and then Bentleys in London ) and so was steaming when he got back last night. I am still recovering from my cold. So, neither of us wanted too much for lunch nor did we have the energy to prepare anything ourselves. After our morning's perambulations around Spitalfield, we found ourselves in DINER, a new-ish place on Curtain Rd just of the achingly trendy Hoxton Sq.

I am often a bit wary of these erzatz diners in London. They never quite get it right. But, DINER has been getting some decent crit, so we thought it was worth a punt.

The restaurant itself is nicely done and pretty echt and the menu is short enough that you know the cooking is done to order. Prices are reasonable ( by London's standards ) and the service was very efficient and friendly.

We both ordered burgers, HP a "Double Decker" for £7.50 and me a Bacon & Cheeseburger for £6.50. With it we ordered some sides which were a bit of a mixed bag. The onion rings were very good indeed. Freshly battered and crispy. Coleslaw was too sloppy with mayo and had no crunch. We also ordered some chilli fries. The fries were pretty grim but the chilli on top was excellent and probably worth trying a bowl of it on its own. To drink we had a ginger beer and a cranberry juice. I also ordered a lemonade, anticipating a properly made sharp cordial. What I got wasa glass of R Whites. Oh Well.

The burgers were really rather good. Decent beef and cooked medium. Having a hamburger also allows the two of us the chance to indulge in an endlessly fun exchange

ME - ( while eating hamburger ) "Nice Buns"

HP - "Thank you for noticing"

Well it gets us through the day.

We saw a number of other plates under pass and they all looked worth trying, particularly the "Mexican Breakfast" of fried chorizo, fried eggs, black beans and hot sauce

Thirty minutes later, we paid the bill £30 for two inc service and pottered out.

I would say DINER is as close to a US diner as you are likely to find in London. A bit hit and miss as indeed, are most of the diners I go to when traveling in the States, but definitely somewhere I can see myself popping into for a beer and burger on those days when nothing else will do.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

A hamburger can't be that difficult to make. This place is awful, truly awful.

Monday, April 10, 2006 11:52:00 pm  
Blogger Hermano 2 said...

Harder than you think, given how many lousy offerings there are in London.

I liked the place, but it is interesting to note, I have not had the urge to rush back

Where would you go for a decent burger?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 5:56:00 am  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I personally like Hache in Camden for a cheap but excellent burger. For an expensive but excellent burger, I like Gaucho Grill or The Wolsely.

For take out BANG on Kingsland Road, can't be beat.

Oh and Bubba at the Arkansas Cafe in Spitalfield can serve a good varient too.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006 10:52:00 am  
Blogger Alex said...

Lord, Oh Lord. I went to the Camden branch of this place the other day and it was truly terrible. I ordered the pancakes/bacon/eggs with maple syrup and coffee.

The pancakes were pathetic: thin, heavy and cold. The bacon was a couple of tiny shards hand-sliced off a side of pancetta and then half-cooked in Crisco. More of a bad garnish than anything else. The eggs were 'over hard' when I requested 'over easy'. The maple syrup was not maple syrup. At first I thought 'Is this Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup?' but it wasn't. It was weird - I didn't entirely expect the real Canadian but at least some standard US maple-style substitute. This tasted pharmaceutical, and not in a good way.

Actually Golden Syrup would at least have had provenance.

They didn't top up my filter coffee, they sold me a second cup. What was going on here?

The waitress was an actual American. If she was served this food over the pond she would have laughed.

So disappointing. Thank God in Camden for Hache and Market.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009 4:11:00 pm  

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