I’m a big fan of British classics and that’s a fact. Give me the likes of bangers and mash or tea and biscuits and I’m a very happy chap, but there’s also a special place in my heart for delicacies from across the pond. I’d heard that The Diner is one of the best places for a Londoner to get their fix of the good ol’ US of A, so I headed down to their Covent Garden branch to see and taste these claims for myself.
Found just off the infamous Shaftesbury Avenue and tactfully away from the busy tourist centre of Covent Garden, The Diner delivers a venue experience that well and truly lives up to its name as an American staple. Rows of red leather-clad booths line the slim strip of a restaurant with a large retro light box at the rear illuminating the top dishes of the day – reassuringly, a whole board was dedicated to the word ‘pancakes’ when we visited - and some specialty beers they currently have in. The Diner’s Covent Garden branch is ideally located in the heart of the West-End and proves the perfect spot for a batch of cheeky pre-theatre cocktails or something off their eclectic food menu.
The Food & Drink
If you can imagine it being served to highway truckers on Route 66, you can bet your bottom dollar that The Diner have it in. While American grub isn’t necessarily a beacon of healthy eating, when food tastes this good it can’t be bad, right?
To begin, we opted for the Diner Queso (£3.50), which isn’t quite the US staple we’ve been heralding but trust us, you’ve just got to start here. A surprisingly generous bowl of warm and spicy nacho cheese with a mound of crispy tortilla chips for dipping – these bad boys will comfortably feed two, which isn’t bad at all for a starter. We also grabbed a few craft cans from local brewing legends Camden Brewing Co with the Pale Ale (£4.00) that’s just one of the many ever-changing craft beers The Diner carry.
Our main courses were two very different (and very large) looks at what The Diner claim to do best. We started on the ominously titled Diablo Burger (£10.00) and the Lumberjack Breakfast (£9.75). A hearty 8oz. monster served medium rare, The Diablo arrives on a melt-in-the-mouth brioche bun with streaky bacon, US cheese (obviously) and The Diner’s own magical concoction of burger sauce. The Lumberjack is the shining jewel in The Diner’s all day breakfast menu, consisting of 2 eggs, bacon drizzled with maple syrup and whipped honey butter. All this served on a stack of fluffy buttermilk pancakes is a wonderful sight to behold and even better to eat.
The Diner also has an impressive variety of fries to partner with your mains and we continued our theme of bacon by having the Wet Fries (£3.40), which come slathered in a rich bacon gravy. A sizzling skillet of Mac’N’Cheese (£4.00) rounds off our mains the only way we know how - in creamy, cheesy style. While the menu is populated with a collection of desserts like the Nutella Crodough (£6), which is a glorious marriage of Croissants and Doughnuts, we actually took one of The Diner’s hard shakes for a spin – that’s right, alcoholic milkshakes are real and they’re amazing. Rumble Young Man Rumble (£8.25) pairs East London Liquor Co. rum with a vanilla and butterscotch milkshake that’s as potent as it is delicious and so big it’s more than enough to split between two.
Loads of food and beer is a sure fire recipe for a good time. Fortunately, The Diner seems to employ some of the friendliest people in London and the small stature of the venue helps to foster a really comfortable atmosphere. Even on a Monday night, the place was packed with patrons, but it never felt busy. Instead we had a pleasant hum of chatter, welcome banter with the staff and a strong soundtrack.
The Diner has swiftly become one of my favourite places to eat in London and has solidified my affinity for food found beyond the Atlantic. Whether you’re craving breakfast for dinner or a mighty fine burger, The Diner has it covered and then some. Incredibly friendly and helpful staff and a great variety of beers further the Diner’s claim as a top-notch establishment that opens a tasty portal to the US in the heart of London.
(NB: All photography above credited to Paul Winch-Furness)