Thursday, August 07, 2008
The Diner, Ganton Street
I've always loved the idea of American diners. It's not just the way they are glamourised in movies and US TV shows (although that's part of it), the combination of the open all hours, drop-in atmosphere and the wide range of dishes on offer puts most British greasy spoon cafes to shame.
Occasionally, attempts are made to import the diner concept to the UK with varying degrees of success. Ed's Easy Diner is an example of a UK American diner concept that doesn't quite work (food not up to scratch, too 'themey') whilst Balans Cafe is one that does (albeit in a niche way due to its Soho/Old Compton Street location and hip, media clientele).
The Diner, on Ganton Street is a fairly new establishment - part of a chain - that attempts to get the right mix of good, diner-style food and a laid back atmosphere:
That's not to say that The Diner isn't 'themey' because it is. The interior is decked out in American retro and the overall look is part bowling alley, part Hard Rock Cafe but it's not overpowering and the good thing is that a lot of attention to detail has gone into the menu as well.
You can check it out in full at the official Diner website here.
So what did I order? The bacon chilli cheese dog, of course:
As you can see, this hot dog is not suitable for someone on a diet. Unless that diet is one that requires you to eat large amounts of fat and protein. It's a fully loaded dog that's unashamedly stodgy. First impressions can be deceiving though because underneath the cheese topping (which is nicely melted and not smothering) there is some surprisingly good chilli (I noticed they don't spell 'chili' the American way, with one L, but I suppose that's allowed).
The flavour was spot on and there were actual, recognizable meaty bits in it not just the boring, industrial mince you normally get. I think this is down to the fact that The Diner serves chilli as a standalone dish and takes some pride in serving 'the real thing', not some vague slop that just looks like chilli. The fried bacon bits play an incidental role but they combine well with the cheese and chilli, adding a salty, porky flavour.
Biting through the toppings you get to a moist, grilled wiener that is not bad at all. With so many toppings, the sausage can only ever be part of a mixture of flavours but you can still tell the casing is not too tough and the meat not too dry. The white bun was fresh and had that glossy, glazed coating that seems to add a certain subtle something to the taste and bite. Very nice.
Overall, I find this hot dog hard to fault. The only negative point I could make is the price: For £6.50 (that's around $13 US) I'm sure any establishment could sell you a top of the range, organic sausage in really good, freshly-baked bread. To charge that amount for what would be considered a basic food item in the States seems extravagant - it's almost like you have to pay a premium to get something cheap. This hot dog and a Coke, plus service, came to nearly a tenner.
However, if there is a better chilli cheese dog to be had in London then I'd love to know where I can find it.
4 out of 5 Well executed but pricey.