Cheeky by name, cheeky by nature, Dirty Bones in Kensington deals strictly in sauce-covered fingers, carefully crafted cocktails and burgers that are fit to burst. Based just off Kensington High Street, this basement den shakes with vibrant energy, serving an impressive selection of southern dishes that all have a distinctive, almost naughty, edge.
Things couldn't be more vibrant here. A somewhat underwhelming street side entrance disguises a world of colour and quirk that awaits downstairs. As soon as you set foot in the neon-lit stairwell, you know you're going to find something special on the other side. The venue is spread across a handful of underground rooms. With unfinished walls and a few purposely placed cracks, it feels as if you're in a cave, exploring the many passageways and being constantly surprised by what you uncover in the next room.
The decor is intriguing to say the least. Dirty Bones prides itself on rejecting uniformity and is instead framed by a collection of different light shades, patterned wallpapers and random memorabilia. But despite the variety, each room is in no way disjointed and boasts the same rustic, carefree vibe that flows throughout. Make no mistake, this is not the place for a quiet dinner. Instead, it's the place for a few too many cocktails and some cheese-heavy Southern dishes with friends.
Onto the main event. With a name like Dirty Bones, the food menu was always going to feature sauce-slathered small plates and dishes that explode off the palate. To start, we enjoyed a portion of fierce Hot Wings (£6.50) and a bowl of Salt and Pepper Squid (£8). Though the menu had warned us about the chef's own Louisiana style hot sauce, we weren't quite ready for the spice that was plated in front of us. The squid was mercifully a lot tamer. Seasoned well and piping hot, the crisp of the outside contrasts well with the smooth texture of the squid inside. Both dishes surprisingly go well together, both are certainly not shy on taste.
Next came the mains, and trust us, you're spoiled for choice. The long list of burgers and hotdogs are enticing, but we fought the urge and opted for the Flat Iron Steak (£13) and the Crispy Fried Chicken (£14). The steak was tender and delicately cooked. With smokey undertones coming from the chargrilled exterior, the entire dish is balanced well by the homemade glaze and the burnt rosemary seasoning. Likewise, the fried chicken was perfectly cooked. With a delectable crunch on the outside, the chicken fell off the bone once inside; exactly how you'd imagine this Crisco-heavy dish is served in America's diners. However, the taste was slightly disappointing. When you name yourself Dirty Bones, each bite has to jump high. A few dashes of paprika would have worked wonders.
To go with the mains, there's an alluring line-up of great sides to choose from. We dove straight in, ordering the Cheesy Truffle Fries (£5.50), the garlic and herb Collard Greens (£4), and the sweet chilly and lime Spicy Slaw (£3.50). Both the slaw and the collard greens do their job well. But of real note, and embodying the Dirty Bones mantra, were the truffle chips. The aged parmesan and cheese sauce gives the dish a smooth texture, while the rich white truffle oil helps to cut through the overpowering creamy nature. Creating an unrivaled sensation and fantastically messy to eat, this is a must-try for us.
The Dirty Bones drinks menu features concoctions, wines and spirits from across the world. But given the restaurant's infatuation with all things American, whisky and bourbon are big hitters here. The first cocktail of the night was the Butter-Washed Bourbon (£9.50), composed of Woodford Reserve bourbon, gomme syrup and bitters. Though subtle in flavour and not really in keeping with the over-the-top mentality, it was exactly the sort of smooth, ice-cold drink you'd like to accompany a rich feast. Following this, the Deputy Dog (£8) was a real hit. Lime-heavy and looking like a Mojito, the zesty blood orange and El Jimador Blanco tequila gives the drink an edge that lingers in the mouth but remains incredible smooth. Again a great companion for a heavy meal, this cocktail gets two thumbs up from us.
Serving fantastic plates of food, accompanied by a well curated drinks menu and backing it all up with decorations that seem to constantly wink at you, Dirty Bones is exuberant and celebrates excess like every good American restaurant should. Thrilling everyone that takes a seat, the venue specialises in etching huge smiles and inducing food comas. In our eyes, that's a winning combination.