If you’ve heard of Maxwell’s Bar and Grill before, more than likely it’s because of one, or all of the following. Number one: they were one of the first restaurants to bring Australia's freakshake craze to London. Number two: they’ve been a Covent Garden restaurant staple since the 80’s. Number three: their dig-in-and-get-dirty dishes are heavy weights in flavour and reasonable in pricing. I took a trip central to see if it was worth the hype.
Red neon lights shine bright from the front windows of Maxwell’s attracting passers bys like a moth to a burning flame. It’s one of the stand out establishments on James’ Street and its close proximity to Covent Garden tube station ensures a contact flow of walk-ins. Spread across two floors and boasting a small terrace area outfront, you’ll be spoilt for choice when trying to decide where to sit. The bar is nestled along the left hand side of the venue and has enough room for a dozen bartenders to work their alcohol-fuelled magic. And if you like, you can even pull up a stool and watch your bartender at work. Like I already mentioned, the venue is spread across two floors, both of which are scattered with dark mahogany tables and seats wrapped in deep red leather. But if you can, try nab one of their booths - they’re super cosy and offer a small slice of intimacy in this joint's busy atmosphere. .
Food and Drink
With lip-licking starters like crispy fried shrimp and sticky BBQ wings perched on the A La Carte menu, myself and my plus one cut out the middleman (aka indecisive decision making) and went straight for the nachos fondita with pulled pork £14.95. It clearly states on the menu that this sharing plate is made for two; but I’m here to tell you that they lied. Smothered in melted cheese and served with a choice of fresh dips, this mighty and meaty dish would feed a small family. So; if you’re after value for money, this is your plate. Feeling extremely full (but by no means defeated), we moved onto our mains. My dish, the smokin’ ribs and chicken combo £15.45 came out with skinny French fries and crunchy apple coleslaw. I found the chicken a tad on the dry side, but the ribs were dripping in hot buffalo sauce and carried plenty of tender meat on the bone. My company went for the baby back ribs £17.95 which came with the same selection of sides, minus the chicken. Saving best for last, we guiltlessly got our waistlines ready for a salted caramel freakshake £7.95. Presented with a sugar glazed doughnut, pink fluffy marshmallows and a shit load of cream, I can confirm that this sweet lil’ mix is worth the 2,000 calories (until you hop on the Piccadilly Line and find that your decision has already added to your muffin top). It was smooth and creamy and had pieces of caramel that were small enough to slurp up through your straw. Throughout our three-course meal we dabbled in and out of the classic and signature cocktails. With well known options like porn star martini and other bespoke tipples at hand; you’ll never be stuck for choice.
Some spots in central London can be hit and miss on weekdays - not Maxwell’s. With a 30 minute wait for a table at 7pm, I counted my blessings that we were smart enough to make a reservation before arriving. The joint was heaving with everyone from yappy tourists to businessmen in shiny suits. and their ruffled laughter and hearty chatter could be heard over the venue’s lighthearted playlist. Ultimately, Maxwell’s is the type of place you come to when you want to unwind with a good sized plate of comfort food sitting in front of you. It might not be a fantastic spot for a first date (not many people can pull off looking sexy when they’re knee deep ribs and BBQ sauce) but having tried and tested the atmosphere, I can confirm that it’s a great spot for a long overdue catch-up and drinks.
American-style dishes, hearty portions and well-informed attentive staff, it’s easy to see why Maxwell’s Bar and Grill has stood tall and strong since the 80s. Adapting to current trends, like being the first London restaurant to serve freakshakes, while simultaneously sticking to their original agenda of providing the West End with decent grub and a vibrant atmosphere - here’s to plenty more decades at this family-run bar and grill.