Address: 45 Curtain Rd, London EC2A 3PT
Bookings: booked with Open table
Price: £££ (alcohol included)
American restaurants aren’t known for delicate fine dining, often making up in size and big flavours what they lack in finesse. Newly opened ‘Southern soul’ restaurant Red Rooster may have taken this too far.
Having heard a fair amount of hype about the place, and since it sits only a stone’s throw away from our office, we thought it high time to put in a visit. Downstairs, the restaurant space is enormous, filled with odds and ends to reinforce the old-style southern theme, from shop mannequins and plaid chairs to photos of 1950s jazz musicians which smothered the walls.
The staff were friendly, kitted out in a medley of baseball caps, plaid shirts and denim jackets with large red roosters stitched into the back of them, and the atmosphere generally a cheerful and laid back one. We were seated right next to the stage, where live bands perform six nights a week, belting out jazz numbers and the occasional hip-hop song. Mercifully, however, we left the restaurant just as the live act was beginning to warm up, and so weren’t subjected to a 21st century Shoreditch hipster’s reinterpretation of Duke Ellington and Miles Davis.
But onto the food itself. I ordered up ‘Ol Man Shrimp N’ Grits’ as a starter, a stodgy, gruel like substance that tasted like lightly salted porridge, with a single, lonely prawn sat on top of it. I had never actually heard of grits before, but a quick Google search defined it as “food made from corn that is ground into a coarse meal and then boiled.” It was about as unappetising as that sounds.
Corn in general, is a big theme in the restaurant, in fact it was almost impossible to find anything on the menu that didn’t contain a healthy dose of it; I ate my grits with a side of cornbread and honey, a dish that management the extraordinary feat of being both dry and oily at the same time.
My partner in culinary crime ordered up a Ceviche Del Barrio to start with, which was a little better, sharp and zesty, with a large slab of tuna in the middle of a riot of watermelon and tomatoes.
Already dangerously full by the time our starters were cleared, we decided to split ‘Obama’s short ribs’ for a main, named because the restaurant’s chef has made the dish for Barack Obama. These ribs were full and flavoursome, but large enough to feed a small army on a completion of a long march, and completely impossible for two normal humans to get through.
For thirty full minutes we tackled the ribs, fighting our way through them, mouthful by mouthful, before finally admitting defeat, less than half of the dish eaten. Even though these ribs were enjoyable, they were incredibly stodgy, and gelatinous with fat. And we didn’t even dare attempt the enormous, wobbling blob of bone marrow that sat soaked in juice on the side.
I would only recommend this restaurant to those who are experienced lovers of American soul food, and even then, don’t visit if you have any evening plans that go beyond lying groaning on the sofa at home in a food coma for several hours afterwards.