Thanksgiving at Dirty Bones in Soho
Thanksgiving is something that, just like the prom and the Big Mac, has slipped through the net and made its big, imposing way across the Atlantic. For reasons that are hard to comprehend – the day being a celebration of escape from Britain and all – it has started to find its way into our cafes and restaurants. Yes, perhaps the celebration does have its roots in the Christian harvest festival, but now it has gone the same way as Christmas and become an excuse for excess – which is fine by most.
It’s often the case in modern cuisine that we are told less is more. Every chef seems to be trying to pack as much flavour into as little space as possible in the name of presentation, and such meals are usually followed by an unsatisfied sigh and the inevitable “well, that was great but I don’t remember eating it”. This is where the joy lies in American food: it’s big and unhealthy, but who the hell cares? Deep fried everything? Fine. Processed meat and genetically modified veg? Bring it on. A semi-truck load of calories? Worth it.
With this in mind, Dirty Bones’ Southern Fried Thanksgiving menu, with a bourbon cocktail to wash it all down, sounds like it might really hit the spot. For the main course a huge enamelware tray filled with greasy goodies arrives at the table, containing fried chicken, jalapeño cornbread muffins, mac and cheese, collard greens and rosemary fries, all served with a little pan of dripping gravy. It looks like coronary artery disease on a plate and is a mouth-watering sight to behold but, unfortunately, cannot quite live up to the standards set by the presentation.
The cornbread muffins have all the heat of the jalapeno pepper but unfortunately not a great deal of the flavour. The collard greens that looked so fresh and vibrant in their little bowl are destroyed by a French amount of garlic, and have so much salt in them that I am forced to grasp for my cocktail (a sugary bourbon milkshake with a sneeze-inducing pinch of cinnamon dropped on top). The macaroni is nice, but would have been improved by the presence of some discernible kind of cheese and, as for the chicken, it is a bit of a disappointment. The crispy seasoning on the outside glistens beautifully in the dimly lit restaurant – perhaps this could be the torchbearer for the entire spread? Sadly not. Beneath beautifully crunchy layers of oleaginous herbs and spices lie sad, slippery pieces of chicken flesh that, while cooked, are far too slimy to be considered “finger lickin’ good.”
All the same, it is so filling that the prospect of dessert is a daunting one: a big slab of chocolate ganache tart with a boule of pumpkin gelato and a carefree smattering of pumpkin brittle. It’s a tough ask that gets a little easier once the first mouthful is shovelled in. The pastry is light and crisp but devilishly buttery, with a ganache filling that tastes pleasantly like the chocolate coating of a Malteser. The pumpkin gelato is a little disappointing, tasting more of cinnamon (a common theme) than of the promised pumpkin, but the brittle is actually quite pleasing.
Dirty Bones, regardless of the quality, gives you a lot of bang for your buck. The Thanksgiving platter and dessert for two is only £20 and will keep you and a friend full for the most part of a week. While the cocktail seemed a little dear – £9.50 for a shot of bourbon and some double cream – where else are you going to get a meal for that price in central London? The issue is that unhealthy food has to taste delicious. It must at least be enjoyed while it’s eaten it because, between the stomach cramps and the sharp drop in self-esteem, it’s certainly not going to be afterwards.
To book a table at Dirty Bones, Kingly Court, Kingly St, London W1B 5PW, call 020 7920 6434 or visit here.