Monday, 28 January 2013

The Electric Diner, Notting Hill


It's easy to dismiss Electric Diner as the latest in a long line of copycat American comfort food outlets, and indeed I'm going to do just that, but it's also too easy to forget that outside of a select group of bloggers, critics and Twitter-stalking restaurant fanatics (and I have a horrible feeling I qualify for all three), this kind of thing is still a relative novelty. If you find yourself inwardly groaning whenever you learn about a new no-choice chicken restaurant or Soho burger bar, you're in a tiny minority. Most of the population of London haven't been eating at Meatwagon since 2010, still think of ramen as a kind of soup they do at Wagamama, and would consider a new diner selling gourmet hot dogs and cheeseburgers a huge improvement on their local Chicken Cottage or GBK.


It's also worth noting that, Soho or Shoreditch excepted, we're really still not spoiled for choice when it comes to this kind of thing. West London in particular, never at the top of the tree when it came to decent places to eat (the astonishing Ledbury being the exception that proves the rule) is one of those affluent restaurant deserts (see also Hampstead, Chelsea) that would welcome anyone trying to do something even slightly different. So perhaps I shouldn't be to harsh on Electric Diner for being a bit derivative; it is, after all, better this than another bloody Strada.


So I'll try and stress the positives. It's a beautiful room, with a long, sleek open kitchen on one side and low booths nestled under exposed brick on the left, stretching towards a gleaming white-tiled back wall. Staff were pleasant and efficient, and despite the dreaded "we'll need your table back by 7:30" (after arriving only just before 6:15) they were at least attentive enough to feed and water us in just under that time. My Hemingway Daquiri was a great example of its kind - unsweetened and forcefully alcoholic, just like the great man used to like them (only he would order doubles - that's four shots of rum at a time).


But I'm afraid my enthusiasm can't stretch to the food. An £8 portion of chicken livers came served with sweet brioche bread and a small pot of congealed butter in case you weren't finding enough fat elsewhere on the plate. Pickles were decent but couldn't win against such a huge amount of grease and sugar, and so the overall effect was pretty unappealing. Also, it was all stone-cold. Surely it wouldn't have been impossible to fry up a few chopped chicken livers to order? It seemed a bit lazy.


Bologna Sandwich continued in the same vein - sliced mortadella (or wafer-thin ham, which was all it tasted of) and cheddar (I think) inside a very sweet brioche bun and with whole mini gherkins rolling around - a bit slapped-together, a bit careless. I know diner food isn't supposed to be too fussy but there was very little to get excited about here, just thin-sliced fat under melted fat between two pieces of fat. For a tenner.


It seems strange to complain about a side order of bacon being too fatty, but these really were 90% lard, and I think I'm entitled to moan about how even the thin strips of red flesh were crumbly and dry, and the fact that the sugary dressing just made the whole thing even more of a challenge to eat.


The "green salad", ordered because the rest of what was coming our way seemed a little heavy (oh how little we knew) was, despite an adequate dressing, nothing more than a supermarket ready-to-eat bag of mixed greens dumped on a plate, and nowhere near worth £6. Chips had a good crunch but were otherwise unmemorable, and for £4 for a small cup hardly represented value.


The bill for two, with a couple of beers on top of the above, came to £57, an amount I would have been happy to pay had I not left feeling so unpleasantly, overwhelmingly grease-sodden and had there just been one dish I could have considered ordering again. Looking back on the evening now all plates of food just merge into one huge, shapeless, lardy blob - the kind of thing you might start to resemble in fact if you ate there on a regular basis. Also, is there a reason they have their lighting so stupidly low? It started off just barely being enough to distinguish between animal, vegetable and mineral on the table in front of you, and halfway through the meal they turned it even lower.

But after all, this is Notting Hill, and if it's a choice between the Electric and getting on the tube to MeatLiquor, then perhaps it will find an audience. And as I say, if this was your first exposure to London's new wave of pimped-up US junk food joints and weren't on too much of a budget (both eminently possible if you live in Notting Hill), you may find enough to enjoy. It's a nice room, it would be a good place for a drink and it's better than a number of other places nearby. Oh, and they bring tap water without being asked. So they get an extra point for that too.

5/10

Electric Diner on Urbanspoon

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

Do you really need to sound so smug?

Anonymous said...

I think the "congealed butter" with the chopped chicken livers might actually have been "schmaltz".

How long have you been on retainer for meetliquor?

Anonymous said...

What about Lucky 7? Great burgers for years and years...

Andy K said...

1. Is the top bit of the bun of your bologna sandwich levitating? It looks a bit like Sigourney Weaver when she was possessed by Zuul...

2. That 'bacon' just looks scary.

Becs @ Lay the table said...

£57 seems expensive for a diner meal, even in LDN! And what's wrong with Strada (just kidding) ;)

Chris Pople said...

Anon1: Yes, it's very important
Anon2: It's "salted butter" on the menu http://www.theelectric.com/system/files/012013/51026f817e741b1ac2000392/original/Diner_All_day_23.01.13.pdf?1359114113 not animal fat so not schmaltz. How long have you been making a fool of yourself on food blogs?
Anon3: Yes good point, always liked Lucky 7, need to go back.
Andy K: The two kebab sticks in it made it look like Sputnik too
Becs: Strada is worse than Pizza Express, and that's bad enough.

Lizzie Mabbott said...

When we went we sat at the bar, which was infinitely preferable to the booths - the tables there just seemed so vast and we saw a couple having a very awkward date.

I don't agree on the food though. Although they're slightly heavy-handed on the salt, the bologna sandwich I had was pretty freaking great (if a little dear)

Ally Smith said...

Couldn't disagree more! Went on Friday, the bone marrow with slow cooked beef cheek and toast was a joy, the hash browns delicious.

Great staff and a friendly vibe as well!

Paul Hart said...

If they served a dirty great tub of schmaltz with the chopped liver I'd be there in a flash. It is meant to be cold though innit.

Chz said...

I won't defend Strada, but I bet GBK would've been a lot better than that! Or at least less than £57.

The Perfect Trough said...

Plenty round there if you know where to look, but yes it's a little behind on the foodie trends.

Always trailblazing on the Mexican side of things though..

The old Electric was dreadful in terms of food - sounds as if you ordered badly as every other review I've seen has rated it...?

Marcus Shepheard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marcus Shepheard said...

Seems fair, although Notting Hill isn't as barren as you suggest. Kensington Place does a smashing fish pie (amongst other things) and The Churchill Arms is always reliable for a good plate of Pad Thai.

I haven't quite mustered up the courage to go in and try to comprehend what 'Recipease' is though yet.

Ed said...

A lot of salt flying around at the Electric Diner and it's not light stuff. But I've enjoyed the shaved beef rib baguette with a jug of stock for French dipping, and also the burger.

Re other local eating, I had my worst burger of 2012 at Lucky 7 - think the market caught up and over took it. Amusing that someone's recommending Kensington Place...

Anonymous said...

Love the review but this place sounds bloody awful! I was gonna moan that your photos were even worse than usual but loved the explanation, animal vegetable and mineral urgently need to be distinguished, but then it got worse!!

Anonymous said...

And I must say, the liver looks an absolute disgrace! As if they started off making liver pate but couldn't be arsed, abandoned the concept of cooking and went down the pub half way through..

popalu said...

Does that say £5 for a pint, £3 for a half??

Chris Pople said...

popalu: I'm afraid it does, yes ...

Leigh said...

We were talking recently about the craze for UK BBQ and US-Style Dining, and this place seems to have been created purely for that. Cold food - when so easy as livers - is not acceptable at all. At all.

Saskia Sidey said...

I used to work here back when it was the Brasserie! Still have to check it out, but may avoid that bacon...it doesn't look too appetizing!

Hal said...

Thanks for the review. I was wondering about going there, but I'll probably pass now. Though I have tried the Ginstitute which is close by, and they have some excellent cocktails