Friday, 26 February 2010
Ed's Easy Diner, Soho
The screaming, day-glo Ed's Easy Diner sits at one end of Old Compton Street, its juvenile décor rather out of kilter with the very adult bars and restaurants in the immediate area. Don't get me wrong - there's always a place in the world for a neon rocket, and it's hard not to be a little bit charmed by the sheer audacity of this chrome-plated Liberace of a restaurant, but it's hard to avoid the sense of superficiality. Trying too hard. A bit too Westfield and not enough Selfridges. Contrast, for example, with the grittily authentic Lucky 7s on Westbourne Park Road - it is possible to do real US diner without resorting to cliché, although I am really only talking about interiors. The food is another thing entirely.
Things started well. A generously proportioned and silkily rich Vanilla Malt was a real treat - certainly much better than the offering in Guerilla Burgers a couple of days previously, and malts are still a rarity in London. I half-heartedly flicked through the "50s Rock 'n' Roll" jukebox containing such Golden-Era classics as Celebration by Kool and the Gang and Marvin Gaye's Sexual Healing.
Both the burger and the accompanying chilli cheese fries, though, were dire. The beef tasted cheap and processed, a very strange uniformly jellified texture that took me back to school canteen burgers, and despite asking how I liked it cooked (I said Medium) was cooked right through to the middle with no sign of pink at all. Having said that, I have a horrible feeling this patty would have been gray even when raw so perhaps it's for the best. Offering American cheese should be applauded, but this was awful plasticky UK Kraftalike and not the real thing at all. It was bland and stubbornly unmelted, like a sheet of cling film between the meat and the salad. The bun was fine by the way, if a little dry.
Just as bad were the "fries" - not French Fries at all but frozen pre-cut chips also resembling something you may have once been served with your lasagne at school. They were topped with admittedly rather nice chilli and some more of that bland cheese, but were still bitterly disappointing. And this small bowl of cheap frozen chips was £4.15 - almost as much as the burger itself. I pecked at them briefly but sent most back uneaten, muttering something about not being very hungry. "Ooh, you naughty boy!" scolded my waiter - I suppose it must help to have a sense of humour when you're serving food like this on a regular basis.
"If you can find a better diner, eat there!" is the rather belligerent tagline on the Ed's website. They probably meant it as a confident guarantee of quality, but the fact is that there really aren't many other US-style diners in London, and most of the ones that do exist aren't very good, and so you end up reading it as "We may be crap, but we're as good as you're going to get." Ed's may be the only diner in the village, but that's no excuse for mediocrity, and welcoming and hilariously camp service doesn't make up for dreadful, overpriced (all pictured, plus service, came to £17) food. I wanted to like Ed's, God knows at least they're trying, in their own cack-handed way, to be authentic, but penny-pinching and an eye on that inevitable "rollout" has sucked any life out of what decent ideas ever existed, and what you are left with is a vacuous, strutting "concept" signifying nothing. Thoroughly not recommended.
2/10 (for the malt)