In the heart of tourist land (Piccadilly) above a souvenir shop and where those blokes draw caricatures of people, sits Jamie Oliver’s latest venture. It’s a three year pop-up (if such a thing exists) which attempts to serve up everything that is popular right now; burgers, chicken in a basket, ribs, pulled pork and there’s even a flat iron steak on the menu.
The first floor dining room was fairly large and luckily we got the best seat in the house; a corner table right by the window with views overlooking Shaftesbury Avenue. The space was a weird cross between TGI Fridays (there was a huge model of a dinosaur by the staircase for some reason) and Meat Liquor – which didn’t work one bit.
To start we decided to share some free range sticky chilli chicken wings (£6). These came smothered in an awfully sweet barbecue sauce reminiscent of the one they used to serve at Harvester back in the day. A few raw chillies stuck on top provided little in the way of heat and the chicken skin on the wings was flabby – not particularly pleasant!
For main I opted for the safe choice – a burger (£9.50) cos’ you can’t mess up a burger right? Think again! This was a 7oz patty “shaped to order” served in a sesame bun with Russian dressing, lettuce, beef tomato and pickles. The top of the bun was burnt to a crisp which got things off to a terrible start – buns should be soft! When cut, the burger crumbled into tiny pieces making it rather hard to eat – and boy was it dry! I was struggling to swallow. I opted for extra bacon and gruyere cheese (£1 extra each) and neither provided any flavour whatsoever – I might as well have not ordered them. It was a truly horrible burger.
The meatballs in a spicy tomato sauce with spaghetti (£12) had been squirted with a worrying looking white sauce (yogurt maybe?) which served no purpose whatsoever. The meatballs were smaller, rounder versions of my burger and the same could be said for them; too crumbly, dry and bland.
Straw fries (£3) were at least thin but they had been totally undercooked and I had to season them myself. The Most Bizarre Side Dish Award has to be given to the avocado fries (£3). Next to them on the menu it reads “love ‘em or hate ‘em” and I very passionately agreed with the latter. The idea of deep frying squishy, already fatty avocado is a mental one and I hated every single bite! Oh, and they were void of any flavour too!
We couldn’t face puddings as we felt uncomfortably full and bloated. As we paid the bill and left in search of some Gaviscon, we both decided that Jamie Oliver’s Diner has simply jumped on the bandwagon of the London restaurant scene. That would be almost acceptable if the food they served was remotely nice. But it wasn’t, so it isn’t.