Saturday 14 June 2014

Stax Diner

Well look at me being all finger-on-the-pulse. Last night we went to Stax Diner for their soft opening - 50% off food. I loved Bea's crawfish boils, I love her duffins and I was very keen to support her latest venture.

I hadn't seen their tweet that they were changing their opening hours for the soft launch, so my heart sank a bit when we arrived at about 6.20pm to see a considerable queue. I did a rapid calculation of how long it was likely to take them to turn the tables and was about to propose going elsewhere when a lady (I assumed restaurant manager) in a funky leopard print dress and excellent red lipstick told us they hadn't opened yet and offered us a drink. Having obsessively combed the menu on the website, I knew I was having a mint julep, but Paul was a bit dithery so I ordered an IPA on his behalf.

Before our drinks arrived, we were shown to a table. It was right next to the pass, so a great position for me to watch a flour-smeared Bea doing her thing, but sub-optimal for Paul as every single person trying to get to the loos, go to their seat or deliver food to tables shoved past him. Which got a bit wearying.

Having all the tables filled immediately meant the kitchen was really stretched, so we had a pretty long time to contemplate the menu before ordering and then an even longer time before our food was delivered. But Paul's Meantime IPA and my delicious mint julep kept us thoroughly fortified, so that was no big deal.

I ordered the Gilded Chickadee - buttermilk marinated fried chicken breast on a Balthazar brioche bun with lettuce, tomatoes, pickles (apparently - I don't remember them), mild cheddar, apple poppyseed coleslaw and honey mustard aioli. It was very good. The chicken was absolutely perfect and the bun the right thing for the job, although it wasn't quite up to the moisture of the filling and pretty well disintegrated. It had us reminiscing about the trough for bathing crabby hands and faces at Jumbo Seafood. Even a KFC moist towelette would have been welcome. I didn't really think the mild cheddar brought anything to the party, although smoked cheese would have worked well. Really, I'd just have liked three or four pieces of that chicken with a bowl of coleslaw, but the only non-sandwich chicken option was with waffles, and while I know that is a real thing, it doesn't appeal to me at all.
Gilded Chickadee
Paul ordered the Blues Burger - 28-day dry aged pedigree Sussex beef on Balthazar brioche with lettuce, tomato, mayo, caramelised onions and stilton. His suffered even more from structural instability than mine had, because the filling itself was unstable. Stax describe their burgers as "loosely packed", which in this case translated to "browned mince" - or not so browned mince, since there were parts that were almost raw. Homage to Roseanne's loosemeat sandwich? Anyway, he said the onions were absolutely superb (he is a connoisseur of caramelised onions) and the stilton was well judged but the meat let it down. Of course, the last couple of burgers we've had have been gorgeous Turner & George ones, cooked at home over charcoal, so we have been somewhat spoilt.
The Blues Burger
We ordered sides of boardwalk fries and battered fried pickles with ranch dressing. Both very good, although the fries could have been cooked just a little longer. The ranch dressing was fantastic (I have said before I don't really know what ranch dressing is, and I still don't but it was delicious), we ended up dunking the chips in it too.
Battered pickles
Obviously there are some issues to be ironed out - that is the point of a soft launch. The restaurant manager and one of the waitresses seemed to be totally on the ball, but the other waitress seemed to be struggling a bit. Having a menu almost totally dependent on the deepfryer put a lot of pressure on the fryer - I suspect that our fries were rushed through a little bit because we'd been waiting so long. There also seemed to be a bit of confusion with additional people joining tables and adding orders to tickets, which can muck things up for the kitchen on the best of days.

We didn't order dessert because Paul was tired of being bumped into, so the bill came to £29. Stonking value, but we'll gladly head back in a couple of months once they are bedded in and pay full price. And tip more if we can have a different table.


Choclette said...

Oh no, poor Paul - sounds like you got the better deal here.

Jean | said...

I wouldn't have thought you'd have a Southern (US) food place in the UK! Sounds good, but I'm with you on the chicken and waffles. I love Southern food, but I can't wrap my mind around that one!

Alicia Foodycat said...

Choclette - I definitely did!

Jean - Southern American food is very hip in London at the moment. There are burger, chicken and barbecue places popping up all over!

Bettina Douglas said...

Brave of you to try a first night. At least it shows promise.

grace said...

excellent job of describing your meals! for the record, i've been in paul's seat before and can commiserate--it is NO fun.

Barbara said...

We've all gotten stuck in seats like Paul's. I think this once it probably can be excused as it was an opening and crowded. (My daughter swears they stick single women at those tables all the time...and I agree. We often have to argue our way to a good table.)
I'm interested in knowing where Balthazar brioche buns come from...Balthazar is a trendy restaurant in NYC, so doubt that's it.
Anyway....I'm sure many patrons mentioned the bun breakdown to their waitresses. Will be interested in your review after it's settled in a bit.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Mother - I think it'll be very good, eventually!

Grace - it's a very small restaurant, so I can understand it.

Barbara - well spotted! Balthazar in New York recently opened a sister restaurant in Covent Garden, and as part of their operation they have a wholesale bakery.

Joanne said...

Sounds like a pretty good meal! Some kinks to work out for sure, but good for a start!

Bettina Douglas said...

American must be the new thing. In the revamped Indro there is a Nantucket Kitchen which reportedly does US style food.

Alicia Foodycat said...

Joanne - some friends have been this week, so I look forward to finding out how they found it!

Mother - it certainly has been for a couple of years in London. I'd expect a Nantucket Kitchen to do a good line in seafood!


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