The Soho Diner: Cheesesteaks & Cocktails On Old Compton Street

Of all of the gin joints in all of the... Ok, so I didn't drink gin as far as I can remember but I did have a rollicking night of cracking food and top-notch cocktails. What's not to like...
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Of all of the gin joints in all of the... Ok, so I didn't drink gin as far as I can remember but I did have a rollicking night of cracking food and top-notch cocktails. What's not to like...

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As we’ve never met (ok, so some of us might but don’t get you knickers in a twist) I’m blissfully unaware of your dining proclivities and, to that end, I couldn’t give a monkey’s whether you like fast food chains, secret food carts, shit-kicking greasy spoons or Michelin starred mash-ups.

I like them all and much, much more, mainly for the food and what I require from it depending on my physical and mental state, décor doesn’t often come into it. Bob Marley once said “football, when I wake up it is part of I” and while I share his sentiments on the beautiful game, you can remove the last five letters of the F word and replace with a D where I’m concerned.

I’ve been to most of the gin joints in half of the world, I’ve chewed on suckling pig in dog ridden shacks in Malaysia, have spent like an Oil Baron in three-starred places and I’ve scoured the states for diners and dive bars dripping in Americana. The kind of places that look like boxers would go for eye ice and pie slice, where writers would convene over a cocktail and a row, where dames might flash you a smile and steal your wallet. And while the modern sanitized Soho means none of those will happen in the Soho Diner, it is why I fancied it from the off. Brass, dark wood, a lack of twee and an over-riding feel that I could sit, chew the fat and get slowly sozzled. It’s a place where identikit has lost a bare knuckle fight to identity and is not coming back up for the count.

Now I like cocktails, they have booze in them, often weapons grade amounts, and they taste nice. I hate the process though. It’s alright on a beach when your firing into a Sedaris or Bukowski, time lulls as you wait for that rum punch, but in a busy London Bar after a long day dragging punters through the saloon doors of Sabotage Times, I have zero tolerance for the process. Juggle my cup maestro? Set fire to the oranges? Why not just kick me in the shins and have done with it.

Aware of this, the people behind the excellent Electric Diner have cocktails on tap. Read that slowly. C.O.C.K.T.A.I.L.S.O.N.T.A.P. As soon as I received my first Root to Mule, a name I’d probably pillory if it wasn’t served in a tin mug to keep it chilled and tasted like velvety violence, I was sold. So much so I drank three in the time it would take for a Mule to kick your nose off while I waited for the food.

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Simple French-American is the sell, and while that could conjure up images of the lovechild of George W. Bush and a baguette he took a fancy to while on a fact-finding mission for missiles in a Lyon Boulangerie, it resulted in a table groaning with a selection of dishes I’d happily be buried with.

Honey Chicken wings that wouldn’t taste out of place in New Orleans, a Philly Cheesesteak that Rocky Balboa would run up some steps to proclaim his love for, a powerful Mac and Cheese that married my ribs on digestion and a burger that, well, holds its own against the proliferation of top drawer patty shacks currently popping up on every corner of the capital.

The winner, though, and I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this, was the Flat Iron chicken. Like most people whose brain doesn’t fit in a matchbox, I rarely order chicken. This though, was the Kobe Beef of the chicken world. Battered flat, salty without tearing the roof of my mouth off and with a touch of lemon and herb that were nothing more than a camisole atop the naked delights that I ravished.

It goes without saying more cocktails were sampled, I have vague memories of being struck between the eyes by something called a Pickleback, flaring my nostrils at a Negroni sharper than an executioners blade and tackling a couple of pints of Anchor Steam while boring the table with my tales of San Francisco. Three sheets to the wind, I made a mess of myself with a banana split and did unspeakable things to a brownie that, had it been alive, would’ve, worn a figure-hugging dress, stripper heels and forced me to marry it in Vegas.

Imagine the state of the bridal suite…

The Soho Diner, 19-21 Old Compton Street. Click here for more information or here to see its eyelashes fluttered on Twitter.