You’ve no doubt heard by now all about The Soho House Groups latest venture, the refurbished and refreshed Electric concept following a fire earlier this year. The all day Electric Diner boasts a new menu inspired by Chicago’s French-American Au Cheval, with it’s chef Brendan Sodikoff collaborating on the menu as well as overseeing the kitchen. I tried Electric Donuts last weekend, inspired by Au Cheval’s Donut Vault, and rather liked them, they’re sold out of the foyer of the Electric Cinema and vie for attention with a beautiful dark wooden chest of drawers filled with pick and mix. Monday last week I accepted an invitation to pop along to the Electric Diner on their opening night to try some of the food on offer.
Walking down a cold and empty Portobello Road always feels wrong, ghosts of bustling weekends seem to linger, but deserted on this evening it is, and it’s a fantastic contrast to the burst of warmth and energy I get on walking through the diners doorway, just past the cinema’s entrance. I never made it to the original brasserie so can’t make any comparisons there, in fact I haven’t been to any of the other Soho House sites yet, despite the buzz around recently opened Chicken Shop and Dirty Burger over in Kentish Town. First impressions are impressive, it’s hard to believe it’s just day one, walking through the long, narrow, railway arch-like space feels like walking into an underground club, as though it’s always been here but I’ve only just been let into the secret, the room is buzzing with chatter, customers as relaxed as though they’ve been coming here every weekend for years, and this a Monday night. In fact, the atmosphere is almost too perfect, I wonder briefly if I’ve walked onto a film set, ’cause this is one slick and sexy looking diner, ticking off all the current design boxes, from long gleaming bar with open kitchen, to hot waiters and bar staff, sleek red leather upholstered sofas, dim lighting, exposed brickwork and opulent finishing touches.
Sliding into our booth, I’m blasted with intense heat from the open grill which convinces me to remove layers whilst I peruse the short cocktail list, of which I love the sound of a number containing gin and fernet branca amongst other things, but I’m told they’ve run out of some of the ingredients. To their merit I’m offered a very well made Martinez as an alternative, which I’m a huge fan of anyway, and I manage to try their fantastically bitter, herbal creation later when we take a look at the private club above the cinema. Whilst on the subject of the cinema, do be careful when exiting the toilets…they’re seriously snazzy, super mirrored and with a tiled floor that creates a weird sort of optical illusion that I’m blaming for my exciting the wrong door and finding myself face to face with the audience…ooooops! The cinema is GORGEOUS btw. Also *must* book one of the double bed ‘seats’, situated right on the front row just in case you get any funny ideas.
The menu is full on, you have not too many options other than meat, carbs and dairy, do not under any circumstances come here on a diet or any sort of restrictive regime, it’ll hurt. Hard. I do however find it slightly hard to navigate, what at first look to be starters at the beginning of the menu appear to be full plates when we compare prices. I’m so used to sharing and small plate menu’s that I find it incredibly hard to fashion just one meal from the list, we’re here as a group, unusually of complete strangers, so stick to one dish each, you’d do better to share lots, plate pinching later on obviously occurs as we grow more familiar.
I’m torn between a list of variations on the aforementioned meat, dairy and carbs that combine to create some serious comfort food. I tear myself away from what is supposed to be a legendary burger at Au Cheval, knowing my burger blogging friends will do it far better justice than I (in fact Burgerac gave it a big thumbs up at the weekend). I briefly glance at flat iron chicken with preserved lemon, bratwurst with smashed potatoes and garlic jus, sweep a lusty eye over crispy potato hash with duck heart gravy, before resting as I know I will on the sandwich section. Shaved rib of beef with smoked montery jack comes as a french dip and contends with an open faced ham, cheese fondue and fried egg option, but both lose out to the house made bologna sandwich. I simply can’t resist the American cousin to my current fetish mortadella. I’ve yet to exhaust the opportunities where I can squeeze this pistachio studded beauty into any sandwich situation, sliced wafer thin with a Swiss cheese pattern of fat, the boy unflatteringly compares it to Bear Face Ham.
Sorry, I digress. Side options are short but hearty and although I love the sound of smashed potatoes with roasted garlic gravy I need to try the hash browns. These are served as a whopping portion and have equally massive potential; large nests of tangled potato threads at first look to be crispy perfection, they’re sadly just a little soggy in patches, but SO close. A taste of steak frites reveals great cooking and a punchy flavour, honey fried chicken with chilli and sesame is another huge plate of food and creates pleased murmers around our table as does the flat iron chicken.
No, I haven’t forgotten my sandwich I’m just teasing you by saving the best till the end. It. Is. Insane. Bountiful bunches of spiced fried bologna are scrunched, folded, stuffed into a pert brioche bun. I have to cut it in half in order to even attempt to get it into my face whereby I reveal the full extent of its beauty; it’s like the tardis in there, layer upon unbelievable layer, there’s some cheesy saucy thing going on too I think.
I’m defeated but it seems silly not to at least cast an eye over desserts. Our group are practically friends now so pick two of the pies to share, there’s also a mille feuille and root beer float on offer but we’re told pies are ‘the thing’. My pictures don’t do the size of these beasts justice, partly because they’re on beautiful but HUGE plates, just trust me the tarts are immense. We each grab a fork and somewhat hesitantly dive in, but it’s not long before they’re demolished, chocolate slightly winning with a dense ganache, oreo-like crust and whipped vanilla cream, the coconut has a softer texture but we weren’t so keen on the coffee cream dollop on top, still both lovely but I can’t ever see myself having room to ever order one ordinarily.
Electric Diner is definitely worth the trip West for relaxed but glamorous diner surroundings and hearty, simple fare done very well indeed. I love the idea of dining at that long bar, and the breakfasts look worthy of a separate visit. Make sure you come prepared to roll yourself out and promise to eat salad for a week after, but pop next door for a doughnut at Electric Donut first.