Sunday 26 October 2014

Restaurant Review: The Diner, Spitalfields

Burger joints are two-a-penny in London these days so when my work colleagues decided to go to The Diner in Spitalfields, I thought ‘same old, same old’- that it would do various burgers, milkshakes and perhaps some fried chicken. What I wasn’t expecting was a real American diner experience complete with biscuits & gravy (to those in the UK: these are neither what we think of as biscuits, nor gravy), meat loaf and nine types of fries. Nine!

The menu is certainly extensive. One whole side is drinks – beers, cocktails, milk shakes, etc. I tried a cherry soda which came in a glass bottle; it tasted quite similar to cherryade and wasn’t anywhere near as good as cherry coke. As for the food, there’s a lot more choice than just burgers. There are enough burger variations to give Byron a run for its money, including an ‘arch burger’ referencing the arch in St Louis as it includes St Louis pulled pork; a Mexican burger with chili con carne, a Cuban burger and so on. One of my dining companions ordered the DCB – the Diner Chicken Burger – which contains a buttermilk fried chicken breast, bacon, blue cheese, coleslaw and pickles (£9). There’s also a whole section of extra toppings you can add to your burgter from a fried egg to a pineapple ring to Russian dressing.

But it’s not just burgers – there are hot dogs with different toppings (including cheese, bacon, sour cream and pickles), salads, and a substantial all day breakfast menu offering American favourites like pancakes and maple syrup, breakfast burrito or the brunch burger – a burger, bacon, pancake, fried egg, cheese, syrup and hollandaise sauce (£8.20). I’d like to see that one! There’s a ‘diner baskets’ section with corn dogs, shrimp, tater tots etc (like croquette potatoes) and a ‘blue plate’ section which is their term for specials, which includes things like corned beef hash, steak and eggs and meatloaf.

I’ve heard a lot about meatloaf but had never eaten it before; one of my colleagues had previously tried the meatloaf sandwich and thought it was so good that she wanted it again. It came with fries but I asked if I could swap the standard fries for ‘hanger’ fries – possibly so-called because they are great when you’ve got a hangover? They come with cheese, onion and burger sauce – the latter lends a real zing and is something I’ve never tried with fries before, but will have again. And the cheese was perfect – I normally hate cheesy chips, because they are covered with melted cheddar which then congeals, which means you have mainly dry chips and a few have a piece of cheese stuck to them. But in the Diner, they use what is almost a cheese sauce – not that runny, but it makes the chips more wet and gives good coverage, and the cheese is still a melted consistency when you eat the chips. They were to die for – I could have eaten a whole plate and nothing else, they were so filling.

meatloaf with hanger fries

I really wanted to try the mac and cheese as well so ordered that as a side, even though it was far too much food as I hadn't realised the portions would be so big! It was perfect - the cheesy sauce was still runny despite the baked top. I'd definitely order this again, though for me the fries were the main event, though the meatloaf was also very good. The dessert menu looked great but we didn’t get that far!

mac and cheese
I can imagine certain people wouldn’t like this restaurant at all but if you love big portions, proper American diner food and more choices of fries than you can shake a stick at, then this is the place for you.

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