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|Address:||13 Exeter Street, London WC2E 7DT|
|Tel:||020 3544 6061|
|Price: £45.00||Wine: £20.00||Champagne: £49.50|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Thurs 12N-12M (Fri -12.45am) Sat 10am-12.45am Sun 10am-11.30pm|
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There are new restaurants opening in London left, right and centre; Pop-ups with rhyming names and keen attempts at unique menu angles, over -styled cafes filled with new furniture made to look dog-eared and ancient, more often than not with some kind of blackboard element and a metal stool thrown in for good measure.
Joe Allen isn’t dog eared, but it is ancient. Hidden underground in a quiet Covent Garden side street, its exposed brick walls are scattered with hundreds of theatre posters and photographs. These walls are steeped in history. They could tell stories of theatrical affairs carried out in dark corners, drunken spats between Hollywood stars and bar-side dancing into the wee hours.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a sucker for a touted new London tuck shop. I am unfailingly excited about the never-ending openings across the city, however Joe Allen has what almost all of these lack; history. Its walls are its long-standing home. Its renowned name is synonymous with its street. Joe Allen’s is not popping-up temporarily, no bookings allowed, queue round the corner in the rain for a £10 peanut sized taco… It is open 7 days a week and has an authentic old soul.
Joe Allen’s is a theatre institution, “the West-end’s canteen”. The menu is typically American, the wine list is worldly and the extensive list of American beers includes Brooklyn Lager and San Francisco’s Anchor Steam. The Covent Garden restaurant is owned by the incredibly charming Lawrence Hartley and Tim Healey and is almost a replica of its New York counterpart.
The big white menu is scattered with typical American brasserie staples; house salads, baby back ribs, fishcakes, steaks and grills. The legendary Joe Allen burger remains off the menu but is always available, you just need to ask. Order it. It is secretive and delicious. The French fries are perfectly salted and crisp matchsticks.
The bar is stacked high with umpteen bottles and bartenders in white shirts knock up a very good cocktail (I highly recommend the Dark and Stormy). The large piano in the entrance greets guests on arrival and more often than not sits an old chap tinkering out a happy tune.
In November I spent Thanksgiving with Joe Allen and was treated to a feast of pulled pork and duck terrine, roast turkey with all the trimmings and cranberry ‘hootycreeks’ which, it transpires, are jarred cookie-mix concoctions topped with cream . It was my first ever thanksgiving dinner and was most definitely one to be thankful for.
For the anti-pop-up, a cosy setting with wonderfully warm hospitality, good grub and the high chance of a celebrity spotting, head to Joe Allen. It’s still there. It’s still good. It’s doing its thing very well.