A new Diner opened on Gloucester Road recently and having heard good things about it, we popped over for lunch one weekday when we had an opportunity. Their menu is large and sprawling and it took us a while to decide to have a barbecue chicken sandwich, an Coney Island hot dog and split an order of Diner skinny fries.

After we completed our order, we were suddenly subjected to a hard sell:

Would you like some guacamole and fried onions on your chicken burger? That’s the way I have it and it’s so much better like that.

And you ma’am, would you like some guacamole on top of your hot dog?

How about some sour cream on the side to dip your French fries?

It left a bad taste in our mouth. After this assault on ordering, we were pretty much ignored the rest of the meal, which, surprise surprise, took forever to arrive. I also had tap water spilled on me and apart from the waiter apologising (sheesh, say it like you mean it), he made no attempt to help clean up all the spill.

The food wasn’t too bad. While not everything is as it would be in North America, it certainly scratches any itch you might have for that cuisine.

My friend’s BBQ chicken burger was fine if a little on the small side.

BBQ Chicken Burger

My Coney Island dog was large and topped with lots of chile con carne (with beans…it should be without), yellow mustard and onions.

Coney Island Dog

The Skinny Diner Fries with their cajun seasoning were excellent and no, they didn’t require any sour cream on the side.

Skinny Diner Fries

We also split a Warm Chocolate and Peanut Cookie, Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Butterscotch Sauce. Nothing warm about that cookie though…. the peanut butter ice cream refused to soften while sitting on top of it!

Warm Chocolate and Peanut Cookie, Peanut Butter Ice Cream and Butterscotch Sauce

Half the items on the menu come in these irritating baskets that are just too small. One businessman at the table next to us asked, Does it come in one of those baskets?. When the reply came in the affirmative, he continued, Can I have my lunch on a proper big plate instead? That’s what I’ll do next time! Well, if there’s a next time; I’m still reeling from the rubbish service. Have you been to any of the other Diners in London? How was your meal?

The Diner
105 Gloucester Rd
London SW7 5RB

The Diner on Urbanspoon

I’m a big fan of the American baked goods sold by Outsider Tart in Chiswick. They have cookies the size of your head, gorgeous brownies and amazing cheesecakes. I don’t stop by as often as I’d like but I know it’s there, waiting for me to have a cheesecake craving. Relatively recently, they expanded their premises to take in the shop space next door (where there used to be an unsuccessful raw pizza place – I mean, why?!) and they’ve used this new space for cafe seating.

They call it Blue Plate and they offer hot breakfast, brunch and lunch dishes there. My friend and I visited on a Sunday morning and grabbed two seats at the large communal table, the smaller tables were all already full. Their menu that day (I think it changes often) read like a dream – pancakes, grits, hash, hot meaty sandwiches. Diner food galore.

Johnnycakes with blueberries (£6.50 for a short stack – 2 pancakes) were thick, fluffy, cornmeal pancakes studded with lots of the purple fruit and served already drizzled with syrup. We, of course, needed more and helped ourselves to the little pitcher set out. As with all pancakes, they fill me up something ridiculous and I have no idea how anyone can put down more than two (and if you can, they sell stacks of 2, 3, or 4).

Johnnycakes with Blueberries

I can’t only have sweet for brunch or breakfast though – savoury is mandatory in my books. Cheesy grits with fried eggs and sausage (£9) immediately stood out on the menu to us and a bowl of the creamy, cheesy grits, studded with sausage bits and topped with fried eggs soon arrived at our table. And a biscuit! I think this was my first biscuit in London and it was a mighty fine one it was too. The grits went down a treat, especially with a bit of hot sauce. They’re creamy and comforting and about a million times better than a bowl of oatmeal.

Fried Eggs and Grits with Sausage

Blai and I went back for brunch this morning. Blai was utterly rapturous about his cheesy grits and biscuit while I decided to try something else and went for the migas (£9.50), an excellent Tex-Mex mixture of scrambled eggs here with sausage, blue corn tortilla chips, onions, jalapenos and sour cream. There was also a good chunk of excellent cornbread.

Migas

The only thing missing there? Those bottomless cups of brewed coffee – they only sold Americanos here and only by the single cup (of course). There are freshly squeezed juices and smoothies and bottled American soft drinks also available.

They’re open 8am-6pm everyday and on Thursdays they stay open until 10pm. I’ll be back…often.

Outsider Tart
83 Chiswick High Road
London W4 2EF

Outsider Tart on Urbanspoon

I remember reading somewhere that HK Diner in Chinatown closed at 2am most days, making it perfect for late night meals and snacking and whenever we do find ourselves in the area on a late night, we almost always head there. It was late on a Monday night though when we last stepped through their door and I was afraid they would close soon. “When do you close?” I asked nervously.

The manager waved off my question with a smile, “Don’t worry about that question!” And so I proceeded to stop worrying and took to concentrating on the menu instead. The menu at the HK Diner is long – there’s a long list on the front, a long list on the back and even a long drinks menu too. I like their bubble teas!

Morning Glory with Fermented Beancurd

That day, we’d been on a bit of a kick to eat healthily so we split only two modest dishes. The first was a healthy vegetable dish. I love the vegetables section on their menu – they first list a number of green vegetables that are available; there’s everything from kai lan to snow pea shoots to lettuce. Then they list a number of preparations, each listed at a certain price. We chose morning glory (aka ong choy, kang kung, water convolvulus) stir fried with fermented beancurd (we chose the preparation and asked our waiter which vegetable would go best with it – he recommended that). The vegetables were fried perfectly – it’s so easy for them to go super limp, super quickly, but these had soft leaves with stems that had just that bit of a bite to them. The fermented beancurd mixture was delicious with it.

For the main part of our meal, we shared a mixed seafood fried rice. Can’t beat a good fried rice, as this one was with small chunks of fresh scallops and prawns throughout.

Mixed Seafood Fried Rice

On a previous visit (also late night), we opted to share a baked pork chop rice. This large dish of rice was topped with pieces of fried pork chop and their secret recipe sauce of wine and cream. The whole thing is baked (it takes at least 20 minutes) and the whole hot bubbling dish is then brought to your table.

Baked Pork Chop Rice

Oh my, I need a recipe for this! It’s supremely comforting with its rice (no Chinese person can go without rice!) and its creamy topping. There’s even a baked seafood rice option if you’re not in the mood for pork.

To go with it, we shared a quarter of a crispy shredded duck – I hadn’t had crispy duck in years! It was such an exotic dish to me when I first came to London (though its availability in Marks and Spencers put a bit of a damper on the excitement) – it doesn’t exist in North America. There’s an air of theatre to the whole deal – first, the deep fried, slightly parched looking duck portion is brought to your table for your inspection; then the waiter/waitress quickly and efficiently shreds the entire thing with the air of a showman; and finally, you’re left with the shreds of meat, the nude bones and all the accoutrements: pancakes, hoisin sauce, matchsticks of cucumber, slivers of spring onion. It was good – crispy skin, moist flesh (the duck meat can so easily go dry).

Crispy Shredded Duck

What I need to figure out now is the menu for the rest of the one dish meals, like wonton mee and char siu on rice. I’m going to have to go back again for that – any tips appreciated!

HK Diner
22 Wardour Street
London W1D 6QQ

Hk Diner on Urbanspoon

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