Joe’s Southern Kitchen & Bar sits off Covent Garden, just yards from the natural amphitheater under the Punch & Judy pub balcony where twats who ‘found themselves at uni’ or failed art college and decide to become street performers are waiting for someone to give them their ‘big break’ or live set.
The restaurant has been around for a little while and is now a chain with a second site opening in Kentish Town.
As the name suggests the menu is based around dishes made famous in the Southern States of America. Push through the tourists, who don’t even realize they are getting robbed blind by both the juggler and his pickpocket mates, for a lunchtime meal and you will find quite a treat.
The long bar is a sight on its own with all sorts of alcoholic treats lining the shelves. Set over two floors, the shiny metal tables are close together along banquette seating and there is a buzz.
Old style tea-towels as serviettes, condiments pack the middle of the tables and proper serrated knives are begging for some fried chicken to chop.
The jug of water is free and on the table within moments of seating thanks to one of the many checked-shirted staff.
They are primed and ready for the lunchtime rush, and they cater for it excellently. The menu is decent and covers the bases of wings, shrimps, rice balls, catfish and gumbo.
But it is the Blue Plate Special (Monday to Friday 12pm to 4pm) that both myself and my lunch companion opt for.
At £10, a Southern Fried Chicken Meal with fries, chicken salt and BBQ pulled pork beans sounds like a bargain. Especially given our Central London location.
Chuck in the fact that it comes with a drink of choice, including beer and wine, and you are laughing.
An iced glass comes with my 3.30mls bottle of Sagres, (a little dear at £4.25 when not part of the offer) and hey, I was enjoying myself – “I wish the clown could see me now, prat.”
The minutes were easily still in single figures when our meals came out. And what a meal.
The chicken was huge, and succulent. You actually needed the serrated knife to portion off creamy slices. The lemon tang of the crispy outer coating kicked the arse out of the Colonel’s secret mix of herbs and spices.
The chips were crispy and perfectly cooked. It all seems so easy, but so many get it wrong.
Rather than a flavouring, the BBQ beans actually had lumps of pulled pork in it, something I did not expect. And were delicious.
I spent much of the time watching this busy and attentive staff presuming that this was probably how KFC started out. Before the straw towers were guarded by moped maestros and the family buckets doubled as a vomit receptacles.
My guest had two soft drinks and the staff did decide tphoto 1o use those two as the ‘drinks with the meal’ package rather than my beer, which was a little cheeky. And a 12.5% service charge never goes down too well.
But overall it was a great lunch. Filling, tasty and, for the West End, cheap. No wonder it was busy.
Perhaps the only think it was lacking was some live entertainment. Alas, nothing like that round there.