In the second of our Out and About features, we’re still feeling excited but not as brave as we thought. Not sure if we’re quite ready for nouveau cuisine and so what safer way to broaden our gastronomical horizons than a burger joint?
Step in The Diner. A small chain of American diners based in London, they are bringing the very best (read: probably-a-bit-bad-for-you-but-oh-so-delicious-I-don’t-care) of classic Stateside food to a very hungry London crowd. They’ve restaurants in Kensal Rise, Islington, Camden, Shoreditch, Covent Garden and Soho, so one might expect it to be a little too trendy for your average burger-eater. However, when Shaun and I entered The Diner in Shoreditch for an early dinner, it appeared relatively low-key.
In fact the staff were far from intimidating, which is often a bugbear in a hipster’s paradise. We were given ample time to browse the menu, and the waitress was not only patient with our questions on which of the authentic American beers would go best with our burgers (pretentious? Guilty as charged) but offered further advice on which sides would go particularly well with our meals. The best part of the service was that it felt like a friend giving you their personal recommendation rather than a member of staff trying to make you spend more – a sneaky, but much appreciated and admired tactic.
Although you might think that eight burgers on the menu of an American diner is a bit tame, in reality the possibilities are endless. Bacon, fried egg and hot chili con carne are my favourites described as “extras” since they could each be the main part of a meal itself. Clearly this is not a place for the self-conscious eater. Getting into the true spirit of what us Brits like to imagine as true American gluttony, I opted for a Californian Burger (cheese and guacamole) with extra bacon and sweet potato fries while Shaun ordered a Bacon Cheese Burger with BBQ sauce and a side of Diner Fries. Admittedly, these were very safe options to go for and sitting in full view of the kitchen. As a result I developed huge ‘diner envy’, eyeing up plates of tacos and burritos as they glided past me toward tables of more experienced Diner customers.
But disappointed with our meals we were not. In fact, it was quite possibly the tastiest burger I’ve had in a long time. It rolls back to that indulgent state of mind that comes with eating a meal that you know is bad for you. Which makes eating at The Diner all the more sweeter when it’s a real treat. My only regret? Not having enough room to stomach a dessert, or a milkshake – much more than your basic vanilla/chocolate/strawberry choices. And if you REALLY can’t decide, you can have two flavours at once. Pistachio and Vanilla, you will be mine.
As mentioned earlier, we sat down to eat early in the evening, and although we weren’t asked to move on out of our seats, there were people queuing up to sit down so we graciously gave up our cosy booth at the back. I’ve also been told that The Diner does delicious breakfasts – everything from full English to French toast to breakfast burritos – and as such you could be waiting to get a seat. But if your looking for a pretty perfect pick-me-up for the morning after, it’s gonna be so worth it.
Before we left, we cornered the manager and fired a few questions at him:
What’s your name?
What’s your position at The Diner and how long have you been working here?
I’ve been the General Manager at the Shoreditch restaurant for a few months now.
Say it’s my first time at The Diner, and I have absolutely NO IDEA what to order – what should I get?
A Cuban Sandwich, chicken wings, mac n cheese or a Diablo Burger cooked medium rare. Or all four at once.
My friend’s a vegetarian. Can you whip them up something?
The big veggie breakfast with a bagel is great. Or the mushroom burger.
What’s the best time to come and eat and why?
You can have any dish at any time, so stop by to eat whenever!
Any famous faces that you see regularly? Z-listers not withstanding.
Yes! But I’m not naming names…
Is everyone in here super hot or is just me?
Burgers are very good for the skin.
And finally, how would you describe The Diner in three words?
It’s the sizzle!
Opening times vary from branch to branch. Again, check http://www.goodlifediner.com/#/locations