Bringing a splash of Southern American flavour to an otherwise drab Kentish Town high street, Joe’s Southern Kitchen & Bar is the second outpost for the chain, whose first restaurant occupies a more lively position in Covent Garden. But the latest venue’s unassuming location is the only obvious difference between itself and its more established older brother, as the southern inspired menu and vintage Americana décor follow suit.
As expected, for a Saturday night the restaurant was brimming and the energetic atmosphere mirrored the kooky interior – a fusion of exposed brickwork, neon-flashing signs, red imitation leather and steel-topped counters (think Happy Days meets funfair chic).
Large groups of friends held court over most of the restaurant and although the moody basement bar was closed for a private party we did get a sneak peak at what looked like the perfect cosy spot to enjoy the extensive cocktail selection.
We headed back upstairs to sip on our refreshing drinks and with so many interesting concoctions to choose from (1 Night in Jail, Rumdog Millionaire No2 & Son of a Peach, to name a few) we welcomed the advice of the ever attentive and friendly staff, who were some of the most welcoming we’ve encountered.
As with the cocktails the food menu offered a wide selection to choose from. It was split between small plates, sandwiches, Joe’s signature chicken and larger dishes, all of which were served on the kind of china your mama would use for her good old home-style cooking or in my case, the exact same plates my mother has.
We began our mammoth culinary journey with a couple of small plates – the popcorn shrimp and jalapeno poppers. Both of the dishes were intensely hot, but the creamy cheese centre and crispy Camden ale batter encasing the jalapenos made for a killer combination that took the edge off the fiery kick. The popcorn shrimp didn’t quite ignite the senses to the same extent, with the stodgy batter overpowering the prawn, but a quick dip in the accompanying chilli lime salsa brought it back to life in the nick of time.
Next up was the main event. I chose the southern fried chicken wings with Joe’s slaw and mac and cheese and my partner went for Joe’s burger with a side of bbq pulled pork beans.
The buttermilk batter on the chicken wings was surprisingly crispy and I was impressed with the lack of grease left on my fingertips after scoffing down my first portion. Joe’s slaw was nothing out of the ordinary and I was left contemplating why Joe’s was any different from any other coleslaw I’d tried previously, but the mac and cheese could certainly make a name for itself. It was gooey, thick and stringy in all the right places and with the addition of 4 cheeses not only was the flavour magnificently rich but the orange hue from the biscuit topping was vibrant and eye-catching.
Joe’s burger was hit and miss. The meat was succulent and juicy, but the chopped lettuce lacked life and the burnt taste of the overcooked bun kept making an unwanted appearance with every few bites. The bbq pulled pork beans faired better and were a welcome take on the run of the mill bbq beans recipe. The sauce was sweet and spicy, resembling a hearty chilli and the little chunks of pulled pork added a subtle smokiness to the dish.
The dessert menu was unexpectedly limited given the wide variety of everything else on offer, with more shine given to ‘liquid desserts’ aka sweet cocktails rather than the solid form, but we were eager to give them a try so we eventually chose the southern pecan pie and peanut butter fudge pie.
Both pies were gloriously indulgent slices of comfort on a plate, reminiscent of the type of pie a relative would bring along to a family bbq and be remembered for years to come. However, you should be warned that unless you are a big fan of either pecans or peanut butter you might be safer forgoing a pudding in favour of the hard stuff, as both desserts were overwhelmingly nutty in flavour.
Overall, with venues like Pizza East, Dirty Burger and Chicken Shop up the road I can’t say that I’d be likely to choose Joe’s Southern Kitchen & Bar as my first stop for food in Kentish Town, but if exquisite cocktails and a fun party vibe were my intention there’d be no doubt in my mind that I would return. And who doesn’t love a party every now and again, right?
To find out more about Joe’s Southern kitchen & Bar visit: http://joessouthernkitchen.co.
Written by Laura Hill