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111-113 Camden High Street
There’s no need to feel blue at Camden’s spirited soul shack, where food from America’s deep south, nightly live music and a bumper crop of bourbon combine to make a lively New Orleans-style
night out. Drink and music take centre stage. Liquid enticements include cracking old fashioned and whisky sour cocktails, as well as milkshakes spiked with booze; aural stimulations comprise
an impressive roll-call of bands (Seasick Steve and the Mystery Jets are past performers). Food is less impressive, though big booths, 1950s' memorabilia, neon signs and gingham wallpaper form
an appropriate backdrop for a menu that will horrify calorie counters. Fatten up with buffalo wings and blue-cheese dip, seafood jambalaya, smoky barbecue ribs, or stacked pancakes with bacon
and maple syrup for Sunday brunch.
To celebrate the Year of the Woman, SquareMeal is running a series of interview profiles with top female chefs. Read here how Angela Hartnett made it to the top, launched her own group of restaurants and how she describes the secrets of her success.
Best North American restaurants
Best bars + pubs for live music in London
111-113 Camden High Street
Mornington Crescent Tube Station 316m
Camden Town Tube Station 334m
Odeon Cinema Camden 305m
Camden Plaza Cinema 353m
Mon-Fri 12N-12M (Thurs -2am Fri -3am) Sat-Sun 11am-3am (Sun -12M)
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 2
When I was a young man, there was a weekday evening TV programme that reviewed computer games. This was back before gaming became mainstream ‘popular culture’ and were just the thing that little boys did after they'd graduated from Panini stickers but before they had discovered Rebecca Burley's cleavage and the intense joy of illicitly obtained cigarettes.
One of the many features I remember from the show, other than the venerable Patrick Moore as the titular Gamesmaster dispensing advice on how to reach previously unachievable levels and slay end of dungeon bosses, was the hilarious Viewer Reviewer section. Each week a pasty faced young limb from the provinces would be given the first play of a new game before reporting back in the way of any normal twelve year old confronted with adults and a TV camera: “I liked this game, it was good.” they'd intone nervously. “The graphics were good and the sound was, um, good”. Warming to the theme, “overall this game is recommended. If you like that sort of game”. Hardly Giles Coren, but then who am I to talk?
The Blues Kitchen on the Camden High Road makes all the right noises, and some of the things it tries, it manages to pull off perfectly. On a Wednesday evening at 7.30pm, it's slick, reclaimed brick and artfully themed interior is packed out and booked out, so much so that we're told by the chipper and efficient front of house that there isn't a table until 9.30. We slink back across the road for another pint before being called with a cancellation.
Staff are universally friendly, funky and devoid of the 'tude one might expect given the locale (and the crowds). Beers from a slim list of US crafts are pricey, but a wonderful set from house singer Katy Anderson and her band the Rumours is as deliciously well done as it is unhyped. In hindsight, I'd have opted to sit nearer, have a couple of beers and enjoy the set more.
The menu is, unlike the bar, a pretty straight summary of good ol' Louisiana stylings. And the selection of burgers, fried or BBQ'ed goods and gumbo certainly fit the design theme. Like the teen reviewer of my youth though, I can't get round the fact it was all good, but ‘just’ good. Despite the potential to be so much better. A shared platter of sliders were fair enough, perfectly adequate support to the band and the beers, though the new house special of deep fried alligator tail fillet could have been chicken or pork given the level of cooking it had endured in it's panko crumbed prison.
The mains were united in three aspects; great ingredients, cooked well but woefully underpowered with their seasoning. My St Louis pork ribs were perfectly juicy and tender, cooked perfectly over (allegedly) aromatic wood chips, but just didn't have any flavour to them. Lovely meat, but someone had totally missed the marinading stage. Cooked nude, without the thick umami kick and spice a good sauce should have brought, they were just ‘nice’, sadly no more than that. The same, even less forgivably, was true of the gumbo… A deep slow cooked stew of seafood, meats and spices shouldn't need to be liberally salted and peppered just to render it edible, especially when otherwise it was so well prepared. It was puzzling though maybe that's ‘fine’ if you're not a big fan of the duurty BBQ experience.
Sadly, despite the stunning rhythm ‘n’ blues and the friendly staff, I can't see that I'd be back in a hurry for the food. It's a great option if you are unlucky enough to find yourself trapped in Camden of an evening and more than adequate for a night of music and drinks, but the food feels very much ancillary to that. “Overall this place is recommended. If you like that sort of thing”.
Food + drink: 3
Working in Camden we're not short of places for lunch, and I walked past the Blues Kitchen many times before I ventured in. Having been there once, it's now on my list of regular haunts.
The decor is artfully dishevelled, with that lived in look that takes either years or money to achieve. The booths are very comfortable and widely spaced, enough for 6 if you're very friendly (and/or Camden chic skinny), or they can fit 4 porkers like me.
The menu is comfort food all the way. The pulled pork sandwiches I think are the highlight of the menu, with the meat melt in the mouth tender and not a hint of dryness, and the right amount of apple sauce to complement the saltiness of the meat. Also highly recommended are the buffalo wings, hot enough to put a zing on your lips but not so hot you struggle to finish or are crying by the end.
Chips come in ain interesting tin cup and are well cooked, though better to go for the coleslaw which is creamy and suitable chunky.
The only disappointing item I've had on the menu so far has been the burger. The Bun and the toppings are excellent, but the burger itself just didn't deliver, it seemed a touch anaemic and flaccid. That said, having one of the best Burger joints in London just up the road may well mean that my internal burger bar is just set too high…
Service is generally good, with the food coming quickly, however even when it's quiet the staff tend to be a bit far away for you to get their attention should you need something.
They advertise themselves as the best lunch in Camden. Well maybe not quite, but certainly in my top 5.
Food + drink: 4
I have to say, when my friend said we were going to the Blues Kitchen, I was not that excited. I had been before when it opened and it was not all I had hoped for.
But what a difference! The food is amazing!
We stared with some perfectly made killer cocktail. Then followed the sharing meat platter. Ribs, prawns, beef – all slow cooked and moist. The BBQ sauce was to die for. Pulled pork sandwich for main – another triumph, especially with a rum and vanilla milkshake.
It is now a great restaurant with a fantastic bar and live music – I can’t wait to go back
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