Living in our rainy city has a lot of benefits, but for those with a hankering for shrimp ‘n grits it is a long way from the Deep South. By which I mean Mississippi and Louisiana, not Torquay and Plymouth. The inter-continental flight dividing England from America makes an evening of authentic mac’ n cheese or spoonbread an expensive and time-consuming venture. However, if you can make it to Kentish Town the new Joe’s Southern Kitchen & Bar has brought the Deep South experience to NW1. Established in Covent Garden for over two years their new branch has just opened and The Flaneur went along to get a taste of The South.
Chasing the neighbourhood diner look the restaurant is kitted out with red leather banquettes, dark wood floors and bare-brick walls. There’s an occasional neon sign and a projector that when I passed was showing an image of the iconic Route 66. Ramping up the Americana to prepare diners for the food to come.
Before tucking in you can sample the lengthy cocktail menu. This has some eye-popping (and dreadfully punned) creations along with the classics, with One Night in Jail coming to the table flaming. Even if you take your cocktails as seriously as a friend who orders her martini shaken, wet, with a twist of lemon and a dash of orange bitters the barmen can happily provide. The Lychee from the Favourites menu is a particular treat, making from gin, lychee, creme de pêche and a splash of pineapple juice a gently invigorating concoction.
Highlights include the Deep Fried Short Rib Meat Loaf, which is served with a poached egg on top and Dijonnaise mustard below. This is a square of crispy coated melting meat with red onion jam, the mustard and egg giving extra tang and texture to each crunchy mouthful. It’s the dish that would have me going back, along with the Shrimp ‘n’ Grits which is rare over here and a welcome find. Of course fried chicken is the restaurant’s staple, cooked with 24 hour sweet tea brined birds with lemon dust and hot sauce honey. The menu gives the provenance of the meat used – free range from Church Hill farm in Yorkshire – but with this style of cooking it is submerged beneath the strong flavourings (which include homemade BBQ sauces).
Food from the Deep South isn’t advertised with the slogan Getting as many calories into your body as quickly as possible, but Trade Descriptions couldn’t have a complaint if it was. The menu does have salads for the faint-hearted, but that’s not the point. This is fun food for when you need indulging. If you’ve got room for dessert after your Big Apple Hot Dog, or Joe’s Prison Plate, or whichever American-inspired main you’ve chosen then I recommend the Iced Honeycomb & Chocolate Parfait Sandwich. A touch too sweet, but a satisfyingly grown-up way of having ice cream for pudding.
Joe’s is a sociable place. It’s a go with your mates for a catch up kind of joint, the conversation breaking off every now and then to say try this, it’s delicious. There’s no pretension, there’s an al fresco area which will be popular in the summer and the food is made for scoffing.