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)

Ed's Easy Diner on Urbanspoon

16 comments:

nickloman said...

Hmm, sounds like nothing's changed then there! Last there 8 years ago and had a similar experience.

The Happiness Project London said...

Urgh that burger looks terrible! Like something you'd get in a van next to a rugby match... Will stay away.

Btw following Mr Noodles' comment on the fact that pub burgers can be really nice, the burger at The Rest Is Noise on Brixton high street is very good.

Sasha @ The Happiness Project London

Debra Doherty said...

Ditto nickloman.
Have you ever been to http://www.fatboysdiner.co.uk/
I've been meaning to go there for ages but it's never 'on the way' to something...

Eva Lai said...

Aaaahh I was there a couple of weeks ago. Well maybe you can look into taking a dustbin girl with you when you explore restaurants so that the food is not returned uneaten? Like you, I am too polite when it comes to feedback for bad food- was somewhere in Oxfordshire and the waitress asked me, 'was the food alright?' I had eaten most of it. I said 'urm... yeah...' but actually I should have said 'tell the chef in the kitchen he/she cannot cook at all'. Why the hell am I so polite? Anyway, the last time I was at Ed's Diner it seemed to be a fun place and they had a member of staff going round tables to make weird and wonderful balloons. I don't remember having ordered any serious food there. So it seems to be a place that perhaps suits a family, with some folks who do eat school burgers and don't mind eating some non-school burgers to some entertaining things. I did kinda want to go do Ed's last time I had a boyfriend, I thought it'd be fun, not for the food, but then of course I didn't realise I would then have to tell Gordon Brown all about him and get studied by Texas sociologists because love was so wrong, there's enough detail in there for a 300-page book. Yet, 7 months and not one single dinner date or one movie, totally ridiculous. But then Ed's can be a useful place to fall in love in, not falling in love with it, a place for lovers to get to know each other and mess around a bit, then people may disagree with me. I can potentially identify the romantic in the un-romantic (how Romantic can an American Diner be, it's not a candlelit dinner....)
Anyway, oh and last time at Ed's my male companions had very extended discussions on the Ed's toilet (apparently there were very narrow spaces) then I went off to the Ladies' but it was fine.

So anyway I guess I am less harsh on Ed's for the reason that I didn't order any serious food there... Oh I think once the transport was so crap that there was no point, the others were having dessert by the time that I appeared at Ed's....

aforkfulofspaghetti said...

I'm with nickloman. Last went several years ago - and your post reminded me exactly why it's been that long... :(

fingersandtoes said...

Oh what a shame. There's one opening at Euston soon and I was hoping it would be good.

Love Lucky 7 though. Best milkshakes ever.

Kavey said...

We used to have one of these in Brent Cross a few years ago. I loved their shakes but was never very enamoured of the rest of their menu... the hot dogs were passable but the rest, not great.

Caitlin @ Roaming Tales said...

I haven't eaten there but the milkshakes are good.

George@CulinaryTravels said...

The chilli cheese fries sounded so good, but along with the burger actually look dire.

Sorry you had such a bad meal.

Caitlin said...

Thanks Chris for your post. When I visited Ed's Easy Diner, I had a similar experience to Eva...

Caitlin

Melanie Seasons said...

I don't know, I could never applaud *anyone* for using real (and I use that term loosely) American cheese. It's cling film, itself!

Andrew Webb said...

Lasagne and chips.... ahh that takes me back. It's probably my guilt pleasure meal. Preferably with cheap industrial pre-sliced and buttered garlic bread to mop up.

Helen T said...

If you ever are heading up the A1, then the OK Diner just outside of Stamford is a perfect mix of styling (looks like a proper aluminium clad dinner) and great burgers too. We can normally be found there on Mother's Day, as a treat to myself, & better than most places "special" menu. Great burgers & fries, fab milkshakes and the music is always of the right era! Somethings, it seems, get better outside of London!

MrsV83 said...

Translating any food from one culture to another is difficult, but particularly with American. It translates the same way an English pub does here - almost, not quite on target. I can't comment on the food at Ed's, being way over here on the West Coast (California) but the decor sounds authentic, down to the rocket. In the 50's and 60's Americans were obsessed with all things rocket and atomic related. The screw up comes in the music - the Kool and the Gang and Marvin Gaye hits are from the 80's. Diner food was never exotic or even very good. It was plentiful and cheap.
That said, LOVE your blog and read it on a regular basis. Come have a real burger in LA.

Chris said...

Sasha: Thanks for the tip - I will add it to the list.

Debra: No I haven't, but I know a couple of people who quite like it. Middle of nowhere though!

fingersandtoes: It's been many years but I do want to go back. I remember liking the burger.

Melanie: Each to their own, but Kraft cheese is an essential part of the authentic US burger. See 99% of the examples here - http://aht.seriouseats.com/

Helen T: Sounds interesting. I'll let you know if I ever make it there

Blonde deb said...

We had one open in the metrocentre Gateshead and it looked great being as we always wanted to dine at a American diner kind of place, we took the kids as a treat, ordered some burgers and cheese and bacon fries. The burgers came on a side plate on its own, no side salad to try to even bulk it out so it would look like you we're getting something for your money and a small bowl of cheese and bacon fries. My kids meal came with fries and they looked to have more food than me and my hubby. Needless to say I left still feeling hungry and £40 down. The only good thing was staff were really friendly, but I'll never go back.