THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
When Joe Allen passed away last February, it was a low blow to theatre goers on both sides of the pond. His classic American Bistro became a fixture, first on Broadway in 1965 and later in the West End. For me personally, it has always been a “go to” either before or after theater and I mourned his passing. Happily, owners Tim Healy and Lawrence Hartley have now reopened, with familiar faces at the front of house and new ones in the bar and kitchen. As always, the place is buzzing!
The new bar is a very cosy watering hole with Russell Norman running the show. Thankfully, it still has that New York vibe. The whole place does. Exposed brick, posters of shows, photos of stars and heaving with showbiz energy. It’s enough to make me homesick! And the tinkling piano is always such a joy. My gorgeous blonde companion and I had the pleasure of listening to Nicole Johnson all evening. She played all our favourites and we found ourselves constantly bursting into song. It’s a wonder we weren’t thrown out!
The other new face belongs to Head Chef Gary Lee. The food at Joe’s was never groundbreaking, just good solid food that you want to eat. Lee has upped the ante considerably. I enjoyed our meal more than ever.
I’m sadly on the wagon this month, but an “over the hedge” (£5) of elderflower, mint, cucumber and tonic made my alcohol free life bearable. I think the blonde got a better deal with a Hemingway (£11). Rum, Maraschino, pink grapefruit juice and lime was very well received. It smelled divine!
Crispy duck and watermelon with chilli cashews (£10) was packed with Asian flavours. A great balance of sweet, sour, heat and umami. Garlic buttered wild mushrooms on sourdough toast (£10) also hit the spot. Classic, well prepared, just the right amount of garlic and scads of butter!
Baked Asian spiced Salmon with gai lan, enoki, wild ginger and dashi broth (£19.50) worked a treat. The Chinese broccoli was in fact tender stem but I didn’t mind. The broth was superb. Crusted cod fillet with shrimp gumbo, chorizo, braised coco beans, sherry and tomato (£24) was another well executed fish and the portion very generous. The chorizo added oomph to the tasty southern American classic.
French beans with bacon and sweet onion butter (£6) sounded so intriguing I had to have it. Glad I did! The onion butter is something I will steal. I could drench just about anything in it!
Nothing screams New York dessert like cheesecake. I’ve had a fair few and make a wicked one myself so I had to see what Chef Lee had done with it. He passed with flying colours! It was very light but still dense and rich and came with a lovely raspberry sauce. Even Craig Claiborne would have been pleased!
Rest in peace, Joe. You’re still creating quite a buzz!