Restaurant: Joe’s Oriental Diner.
Where is it: Kings Road, Chelsea.
Opened: March 2015.
What kind of food: Pan-Asian cuisine by way of Australia has somehow landed on Chelsea’s Kings Road, thanks to one of London’s most exciting new chefs and the man behind Kurobuta, Scott Hallsworth.
Who goes: London’s Aussie community and Chelsea dwellers who’d rather bypass the Bluebird (which sits just across the street) for something far cooler.
The concept: Taking inspiration from the dive bar subculture of the Orient, this is soul food with a seriously spicy twist. Unashamedly honest and inherently cool, think of Hallsworth’s latest venture as Kurobuta’s little (and far more rebellious) little sister.
The interiors: In a word, dark, which sets off the Asian diner-come-bar vibe perfectly. Spanning two open floors Joe’s is small and ramshackled, the wood-panel walls are adorned with Oriental street art and quirky drink’s brand posters, while the tables and chairs come rough and ready. A tiny open kitchen lights up the restaurant at the back, where you can watch the theatrical spectacle of the chefs work their magic.
We tried: Dishes come in sharing sizes so you can order as much or as little as you like – they are quite large so go easy and order as you go. We had Thai Pork Sausages – inspired by Joe’s red-light summers in Pattaya, apparently, which explains their heat and the Mushroom San Choy Bao – a wet noodle dish wrapped up in crisp, refreshing lettuce leaves. Followed by the Duck Leg Curry with Lychees and the biggest scallops we’ve ever seen cooked in salty, firery and fresh Asian flavours.
Hero Dishes: The Singapore Chilli Lobster – Joe’s may be based on a dive bar but we’re definitely still in Chelsea.
And the drinks: Forget trendy jam jars or copper tankards, Joe’s cocktails are served up in Kikkoman Soy Sauce bottles. There’s also a small range of craft Asian beers and wine.
Star Cocktail: A tossup between Joe’s Pink Parts – Lemongrass, Lime, Rose Vermouth and Gin and the Nuclear Daiquiri, which name speaks for itself.
Best for: Dinner with a small group of friends or a first date when you want something more buoyant than candlelight and white tablecloths.
Our favourite thing about it was: The staff were seriously fun, at times we felt like we were on a night out with them rather than dining in a restaurant. It’s a no-brainer the food’s going to be good with Scott at the helm, but the dishes stand their ground amongst the hype of Kurobuta and Scott’s previous roles at Nobu and Bodrum’s Mandarin Oriental.
The Small Print: There was a mix up with our booking so we ended up sitting at the bar. Our advice – sit at the bar; you’ll have a far better night and headache in the morning to boot.