Sometimes – OK, all of the time – it’s good to test your preconceptions to see if they’re true. What I’ve discovered over the years that basically all of my preconceptions are unfounded: honey on baked beans is delicious (don’t mock ’til you try it); wedding dress shopping can be fun; and not all whiskey tastes like soil mixed with petrol.
I had another preconception tested this week in the shape of dinner at Southern Joe’s Kitchen in Kentish Town.
I had previously thought that Southern Joe’s in Covent Garden was a tourist trap whenever I walked past. I am fairly quick to distrust anything in central London that looks like it’s for tourists – overpriced! No good! But had I actually tried Southern Joe’s? Nope -course not. So when I was invited to SJ’s press dinner for the Kentish Town site, I decided it was time I got involved (read: proved wrong).
SJ’s serves American food from the south – think fried chicken and waffles, grits and mac ‘n’ cheese. All that good stuff that is pretty ubiquitous on the London food scene right now (and, for the record, I’m fine with that). The restaurant spans two levels and has a bar – Jailbird – in the basement (it actually used to be a jail years ago, I think) that serves all kinds of head-spinning delicious cocktails.
First on the menu when we arrived was devilled eggs with chicken skin mayonnaise and bacon crumbs, deep-fried short rib meatloaf with red onion jam, poached egg and ‘dijonnaise’, gooey corn spoon bread with clotted cream and Red Leicester cheese. So all light and healthy fare. (All are about the £4 mark, with the meatloaf being a bit more expensive at just under £9)
All the starters were delicious. The meatloaf was intensely beefy, with big chunks of meat falling apart in its crust. The cornbread – let’s call it what it is – was incredibly rich and might’ve been better with a bit less goo. I love cornbread, and I am firmly opposed to not fixing what ain’t broke. The devilled eggs were the standout dish of the starters. They were incredibly moreish, and the chicken skin mayo was a masterstroke – nice and salty to work with the richness of the eggs.
Feeling already a bit stuffed, out came the mains. We were served their trademark dish: Southern fried bird with waffles, watermelon chunks and bourbon maple syrup. The chicken came in massive doses, and was perfectly cooked – crispy on the outside and soft inside. Pared with the waffles, melon and syrup it was insanely good. I love savoury and sweet together so it was a winner for me. I heard rumours around the table of this version being better than a certain one served at the top of a tall tower (although admittedly that’s duck not chicken).
We had sides. Oh did we have sides. There was the perfectly cooked fries with chicken salt (because why just have salt when you can add meat to it?), collard greens (largely overlooked), shrimp & grits (stoneground cheese grits with shrimps, red onion, melted tomato, shredded house cured bacon and Camden ale jus) and one of the best mac ‘n’ cheeses known to man (curly macaroni, four cheeses and a biscuit crust). The mac ‘n’ cheese was my favourite (the health-conscious choice) but was too salty for some.
At this stage everyone had the meat sweats. It was like Christmas dinner-style overindulgence. Then they served pudding and everyone was like “Oh alright, just a bit” and inhaled the lot.
Right, now, let’s get this out on the table right now: the peanut butter fudge pie is not healthy. But it’s not meant to be, so just chill out. What it is though is a slice of peanut butter heaven. Like peanut butter? Put getting to Southern Joe’s on your list of things to do immediately. It was insanely good.
We also had iced honeycomb and chocolate parfait sandwiches, which is basically a Crunchie in pudding form. It was so good, and so sweet. Diabetes cannot be far off after eating one of these. But hey, go out on a high!
The staff at Southern Joe’s were faultless – friendly, fast, accurate. Admittedly we were on a press jaunt so we were bound to be treated well, but everyone on other tables seemed to be jovial and enjoying their meals too. I even bothered asking one of them, and she agreed it was excellent. Surprisingly excellent – and I feel bad saying that because now I have seen the error of my ways: don’t judge things before you’ve tried them. Having said that, you’ll never get me in a TGI Fridays. Sorry tourists, you can keep that one.
Southern Joe’s Kitchen, 300 Kentish Town Rd, London NW5 2TG
Nearest tube: Kentish Town rail (2 mins), Tuffnel Park tube (10 mins)
I was invited to review Joe’s Southern Kitchen, but that pie really is that good.