The Diner, 190 Shaftesbury Avenue, London, WC2H 8JL
The Diner group is one of our favourite burger chains, we try to pop in as often as we can… Maybe too often, as my doctor pointed out at my medical last week! We decided to take the kids along during the Easter holidays and thought we’d visit their new branch in Covent Garden. It was only the second day after their official opening, the place was heaving and a small queue was beginning to form. Luckily we had booked and were quickly shown to our table.
Decor wise the Covent Garden restaurant has a slightly different feel to its older siblings, they are all based on those cool NYC diners that you see on telly. The newest addition seems a little more ‘raw’ and a touch edgier, aged exposed brickwork and unfinished wooden paneling adds a more industrial feel… Maybe taking a little inspiration from MEATliquor or Byron? We’re also slightly envious of the Bauer magazine offices being right across the road, no doubt they’ll be using it for a photo shoot soon… Handy.
The four of us were shown downstairs to a fab little arched booth in the basement. The walls and ceiling were all clad with wood from a reclaimed basketball court, it’s amazing what you can buy on eBay these days. (I dread to think what the P&P must have cost!) Charlotte complained that it smelt of wood – she’s such a harsh critic, but she soon forgot about that when the kids menu turning up (complete with colouring pencils).
We all studied the menu, this had been tweaked a bit too. A couple of the ‘special’ burgers, The Diablo £8.70 and The Grab £8.50, have made it on to the list along with a couple of brand new additions. The full range of fries were still there as was the Blue Plate section… We dived in and ordered far too much, it all sounded too good. Without hesitation I ordered a round of Shakes, from £4.30 (add 50p for malt or peanut butter). We also spotted a new soft drink on the menu, the Orange Cream Soda £3, a drink that tasted like it sounded – a brilliant addition to the drinks list that also includes the ever popular Root Beer float £3.50. I was a responsible parent and declined my usual bottle of Brooklyn Beer,£5. The Diner has a fab range of cocktails, beers and even ‘hard’ shakes so it can be a bit tricky keeping to the soft drinks. I can resist anything but temptation!
Then the burgers, sandwiches, fries and sides began to arrive… My first choice was the Black & Green Chicken sandwich £8, purely as the blackened grilled breast came with a deep-fried green tomato and I’d fell in love with these as Mishkin’s. This was good (especially the green tomato) but I already had one eye on the The Cuban £8.50, and Wet Fries, £2.90, that had landed in front of me. The Cuban was a meaty wet dream (that sounds wrong…) maple roasted pork and ham and Monterey Jack served with a little jug of rich meaty gravy. And as for the wet fries… Imagine the same gravy poured over a basket of skinny fries, delicious – they didn’t last very long, Saff tried to hog them but didn’t succeed.
My son Oliver, aged 10, opted for the kids portion of Southern Baked Meatloaf with cheesy mash £8.50 (for full adult size). Two thick slices of ground beef wrapped in bacon – perfect comfort food. I was glad he ordered this as I’ve always wanted to try it.
My daughter Charlotte, 8, went for a plain burger – no onions, no pickles, no sauces, ‘no nothing’ she said… The next 5 minutes involved a very confusing explanation about double negatives, I gave up! Back to the burger, luckily the quality of this plain patty is good enough to stand up to being ‘naked’ in its bun. All of the burgers use freshly ground Scotch fore quarter and chunk steak that are prepared on site. She shared a basket of Cheese fries £3.10, with me – well I say share, she let me have a couple. While on the subject of fries, the Diner have an impressive 7 varieties on their menu. If I were to pick a winner I’d go for the Wet fries, that Diner gravy is a bit special, but for something different try the Sweet Potato Fries £3.30.
Charlotte and Oliver also demolished a portion of Diner Chicken Wings £5.50, fried in a crunchy coating till golden and served with a fairly subtle blue cheese dip. Saff eventually decided on the Arch burger £7.50, 6oz burger topped with St Louis pulled pork, coleslaw and dill pickle (it should also be served with Monterey Jack cheese but this is Saff the cheese hater – such a waste). She found it a bit of a messy mouthful, she’d be disappointed if she didn’t go home smelling of burger. The pork was tender with a good portion of those delicious crispy bits and, as always, the quality of the burger shone through.
Did we have room for dessert? Of course we did! But we did share them. Saff and Charlotte ordered the Banoffee Pie £4.25, a perfect mix of thick cream and sweet sticky caramel. Us boys went for the American diner classic, a huge wedge of Apple pie £4.25. A good thick pastry crust with a spiced apple filling… Now we were full! As we left, Saff and I overheard someone order a Corn Dog from the sides section, how did we miss that? Definitely next time!
190 Shaftesbury Avenue
London, WC2H 8JL
020 3551 5225
Mon to Thurs: 0930-2330
Fri and Sat: 0930 – 0000
Nearest tube: Covent Garden or Tottenham Court Road