SquareMeal Review of Joe Allen
It was a dark day in Theatreland when it was announced that the unofficial actors’ canteen, Joe Allen, was going to close – not least because it was to make way for a boutique hotel owned by one of their own, Robert de Niro. But the move around the corner has re-energised this luvvies’ classic that first opened its doors on Exeter Street in 1977.
A tighter, less labyrinthine layout concentrates the hubbub of the room, while fittings that have been moved lock, stock and piano from Exeter Street look as if they have been here for years. And the American comfort food is the same as ever – adequate rather than amazing, but more than cutting the mustard if you’ve come to soak up the pre- and post-theatre atmosphere or for a boozy weekend brunch with friends; it’s also as well suited to feeding an eight- or eighty-year-old.
‘Eggs Joe Allen’ is a nicely poached Burford atop a thick slice of potato cake, spooned with hollandaise sauce; well-timed calf’s liver comes with mash that is stodgy, not smooth; apple strudel is an as sweet as something you’d want to end Sunday lunch. To drink, a well-priced wine list has bags of choice for under £40, while an evening spent at the bar with classic American cocktails would be a hoot. Remember your waiter’s face: like former staffer Graham Norton, he may well be a star of tomorrow.
About Joe Allen
Located in the heart of Theatreland, this American restaurant was first opened in 1977, as a sibling to the original restaurant in New York. The restaurant quickly became famous, as it was a project led by actors and producers eager to seduce punters to their shows. Joe Allen’s or the ‘West End’s Canteen’ is no stranger to a famous face, with many a celebrity dining at the restaurant. Plus, with its great location, situated in Covent Garden, in close proximity to major theatre venues, it’s a no brainer to have a pre- or post- theatre dinner here whether you’re an audience or cast member.
The interior of the restaurant is filled with movie memorabilia and pictures of famous faces, and is dimly-lit with plush furnishings. The mood is buzzy and exciting, in part due to the well-stocked bar which is a main feature of the room, lined with hundreds of bottles of booze.
The main dining menu offers an authentic selection of north American classics from hearty rounds of burger sliders to juicy sirloin steaks serves with French fries and a peppercorn sauce. The restaurant also does a fantastic, moreish smoked beef frankfurter hot dog replete with all the toppings, while an oak smoked baby back rib platter with Asian slaw and sweet potato fries will satisfy all your BBQ cravings. The restaurant also does a great brunch menu featuring fluffy Belgian waffles topped with crispy fried chicken a la American, and offers more regular dishes of breakfast buns and avocado poached eggs. Don’t skimp on dessert, the apple and mixed berry crumble is a delight, and the pecan pie goes nicely with a hot cup of coffee.
If you’re planning on sighting a celebrity, stick around for innovative cocktails such as salted caramel martini or pink squirrel featuring crème de noyaux, white cacao, and cream.