Redesigned from an old converted warehouse, this Covent Garden venue is the original Joe's Southern Table & Bar from Restaurant group Maxwell’s. Having built up an impressive base of fried-chicken fans and social media followers, they recently opened a second Joe’s in Kentish Town with hopeful whispers of more to come.
After being held up at the station, losing once again to the Covent Garden lift guessing game, I almost rushed straight past the restaurant, having been on the lookout out for a brash, American themed diner. I was pleasantly surprised to see neither a star nor stripe in sight! Just one neon JOE’s sign telling me I had arrived at my destination.
Matching the simplicity of the outside, there is a warm theme of red leather and exposed brick running throughout the mezzanine and main dining floor. Almost matching the venue in length, the eye-catching back bar boasts impressive tequila, rum and bourbon collections, giving you a taste of the comprehensive drinks list to come.
You can instantly relax into this deceivingly large space, enjoying the buzz of after-work drinks and the sedating smells of fried chicken and cheese. Although the metal tables are tightly packed in, it creates the perfect opportunity to do some ‘not-so-subtle’ plate watching and ‘ooohing’ at your fellow diner’s dishes of choice. Thankfully though, the lighting is dimed as the evening goes on so that you can get on with your finger licking and chin wiping in peace.
For those not yet deterred by their dates eating habits or ready to call it a night, there is a hidden cocktail bar in the basement – offering a dark and seductive drinking haven away from the crowded streets above.
The Food and Drinks
In a city where American themed restaurants are a dime a dozen, Joe’s finds innovative ways of keeping a stream of new customers through the door. Chef’s pick up on latest food trends and cleverly add a Southern twist before putting it on the menu - remember the avocado burger that recently had its 15 minutes of fame? A Joe’s original.
We started with a selection of Joe’s Snacks and Small Plates. The Jalapeno poppers in a Camden Ale Batter packed a powerful punch whilst the oozing cream cheese filling offered relief to the heat. The Slow Braised Beef brisket chilli cup with tortillas and sour cream was generous in size for its £6 price tag and tasted like your mum's hearty home-cooked chilli. The Southern Fried boneless bites and sauce smothered Buffalo wings (both of which can be ordered in portions of 6, 12 or 48) were the perfect snacks to be enjoyed over conversation and cocktails.
Out of the three choices of chicken (all gluten free) we decided upon the Tabasco Honey as our main event - Joe’s classic Southern Fried bird tossed in a home spiked honey sauce. The crowd-pleasing dish over-delivered in both quality and quantity. The meat was juicy and the flavours were perfectly balanced between sweet and spicy. For sides we had the Mac ’n’ Cheese (four types of cheese and a biscuit crust) and chilli beef fries with Cajun mustard, chilli mayo & gravy. We were expecting these dishes to be an afterthought compared to the chicken but they turned out to be our favourites for the evening. The Mac 'n' Cheese was gooey and rich whilst the mix of Cajun mustard and chili mayo on the fries added an original edge to the classic dish which had us fighting over them till the last bite. Whilst my guest battled the duly named slice of Frozen Oreo Overkill with hot chocolate sauce for desert, all I could manage was an Espresso Martini from the ingenious ‘Liquid Desert’ menu.
The cocktail list has as much Southern charm as the food. There is a mixture of interesting twists added to classics and fun, liqueur based originals – think peanut butter, bourbon and jam jars. My friend’s sweet tooth had her opting for the Hola Lola (exotic blend of Brugal Blanco rum, lime juice, passion fruit, vanilla syrup and Cherry Heering) and the refreshing, flavor-packed Red Rain (Plymouth Sloe gin, lemon juice, crème de mure and fresh raspberries). Not being a fan of fruity cocktails myself I was recommended the whisky and wine based Dry Blood and Jim Crimsons (from the rotating specials board) both of which I thorough enjoyed, praising the bartender for his experimental flair.
Whether looking for a quick bite, a couple of cocktails or a full blown Americanization Joe’s has got you covered. Acting in equal measure as much of a bar as a restaurant you will find all sorts in this establishment, all with one thing in common – a happy, satisfied look on their face. The staff were attentive, knowledgeable and greeted us as if old friends who invited us to start having fun from the second we walked in the door.
To put it simply, food like this is why Instagram is a billion dollar industry and the term ‘food porn’ will be cited in the Oxford Dictionary by 2017. Whether you’re after BBQ burgers, beer-can chicken or New Orleans style Gumbo, Joe’s has a wide range of meaty and vegetarian Southern inspired dishes as tantalising to look at as they are to taste.