Mac & Cheese and Cocktails on tap… Enough said! | Soho Kitchen & Bar (previously Soho Diner) 19-21 Old Compton Street, Soho, London W1D 5JJ
I’m going to make this post a little more concise than usual (this may be a relief for some). Firstly because I want to get this review out there as quick as I can. And secondly because every aspect of this standard-raising casual, yet sexy and sophisticated American style diner is so easy and instant that there’s not too much I can waffle on about.
Decor and size wise, The Soho Diner (which replaces the Boheme Kitchen & Bar) is like the younger, but equally cool sister of The Electric Diner in Notting Hill. Not to be confused with the equally fantastic Diner Soho, which is where you could end up without careful Googling (not that that would be bad thing). As with all of Nick Jones’ Soho House group projects, this new restaurant just oozes simple style. The diner is dominated by the centrally situated bar and open kitchen. Two sides have tables seating two or four, the back of the room has a run of booths that seat up to six and the forth side is where the waiting staff scurry back and forth.
Talking of staff, these waitresses and waiters were fantastic! They engage with the customers in a way that makes you feel like you’re being served by a friend. They make you feel totally at ease and are happy to talk you through any questions you may have. Our waitress knew the menu inside out and all her recommendations were spot on.
We sat next to the open kitchen and although it was sunny outside, the restaurant managed to achieve soft, warm lighting inside. Looking at the tattooed chefs busily preparing the food, you can easily think that you’re in SoHo NYC rather than Soho W1D. Like the Electric Diner, this new venue takes inspiration from Au Cheval in Chicago and Nick has teamed up once again with US restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff.
As always we went straight to the cocktail list, and what makes this particular list so special? There are five cocktails that are available on tap! They’re mixed fresh every day, served chilled and finished off by the expert bar staff. Saff ordered a Mojito and it was ready in seconds rather than minutes, result! I ordered the Root to Mule purely due to the fact it came in a cute copper cup. These ‘instant’ cocktails tasted almost as good as the real thing and we tried them all… The best bit? They only cost £6 each.
The Soho Diner also has a nice little selection of wines starting from £19 a bottle, beers from £5 a pint and stronger cocktails, £8. The staff also reassured us that they can rustle up any cocktail of your choice, it just gets better.
Right then, on to the food… These are all the usual diner suspects cooked to a very high standard. There’s a choice of five starters/bar snacks, four salads, six mains and three desserts (two if you exclude the shakes). The advantage of sitting near the open kitchen is that you can take a sneak peek at the dishes as they pass. The disadvantage of sitting near the open kitchen is that after seeing said dishes we wanted to order all of them.
Our waiter picked a couple of the snacks for us while we made the agonising decision on what to order. He placed a plate of Raw veg and dips £3, in front of me. What’s he trying to insinuate? And he served Saff a luscious Shrimp cocktail £6, with a fiery chilli kick and juicy plump shrimps.
I had made up my mind, it was going to be the Philli cheese steak sandwich £8. A soft brioche sub roll over-flowing with steak, cheese (obviously), onions, sweet soft red peppers and sliced jalapeños. I had to try the Mac & Cheese £9. It’s become an obsession of mine since I tried the Millionaire’s Mac & Cheese at the Heliot. And after searching high and low, the Heliot’s version had stayed at the No1 slot. That was until now, The Soho Diner has taken its crown – their Mac & Cheese is made with six, yes six, varieties of cheese and had the perfect balance of consistency and flavour.
Saff ordered the Double cheese burger £10, sans cheese of course. They were very thin patties but were still packed a beefy punch. The bun was light and she was happy that she could ‘fit it in her mouth’. Saff’s not over keen on the ‘tower’ burgers that she has to cut up or rip apart. One slight downside though, she doesn’t usually mess with her burger but this time she had to add some ketchup and mustard to add some tang. She also ordered a side of Fries & aioli £4, most of which I used to mop up the remaining sauce from my Mac & Cheese. Maybe the waiter was right giving me the raw veg after all.
Almost forgot, we also shared the Honey fried chicken £5. These sticky sweet yet spicy trio of wings were spot on. A thick caramelised honey coating with a hint of charring.
Then on to dessert, no difficult decisions here. We shared one of each but not the milkshake. The Brownie £4, was not one but two big squares of thick, rich, dark chocolate cake. Almost too much to eat. On the other hand the Banana Split £6, didn’t last long. The warmed banana was topped with the works – whipped cream, fresh cream, Oreo biscuits, strawberries, caramel sauce and cherries on top!
That was that, we rolled away from our table and made a new base camp near the cocktail pumps. Here we found out that they’re planning on serving an all day brunch on the weekend, and considering that they stay open till 3am, that’s a bloody long brunch. We decided to drink a couple more cocktails and try to pluck up courage to give Fay Maschler a business card, some things seem like a good idea when slightly intoxicated. Not quite sure what she would had done with it though, answers on a postcard to…
19-21 Old Compton Street
Opening hours: Sunday to Wednesday 11:00 – 01:00
Thursday to Saturday 11:00 – 03:00
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Nearest tube: Leicester Square or Piccadilly Circus, Tottenham Court Road or Covent Garden