Published on April 22nd, 2015 | by Gavin0
Joe’s Southern Kitchen, Kentish Town
Summary: If you fail to order the chicken gravy to accompany the fried chicken & mac ‘n’ cheese, you should be made to stand in the corner facing the wall for the rest of the evening
Proper Soul Food
Soul food is hard to do well in the UK and I think mainly it’s due to us Brits not sharing the same passion for fried foods as those in the Southern states of America. In fact, I don’t even think those living anywhere north of the Mississippi can compete with the finest that Louisiana or Tennessee has to offer. Don’t get me wrong, you can get some VERY good fried chicken in our city (including an ever expanding list of establishments offering chicken and waffles), but what about the other staples of a typical Cajun diet like collard greens, catfish, and corn bread?
Joe’s Southern Kitchen is one restaurant truly flying the flag for New Orleans style cooking in the UK, offering one of the largest Cajun & Creole menus you can find in a “mainstream” environment. And as I recently found out at the launch of their new site in Kentish Town, they do it extremely well indeed.
You may be well aware of Joe’s, as their original Covent Garden venue (formerly known as Navajo Joe’s) has been a haven for locals and tourists alike searching for a Deep South dining experience. A second site has been long overdue and the owners have snubbed the bright lights of Shoreditch or Soho in favour of Camden’s subdued neighbour, Kentish Town. A slightly quizzical decision at first glance, but having mistakenly got off at the wrong station, I took a leisurely stroll from Camden Town and there are signs that Kentish Town could be (in my best Foxton’s estate agent voice) “the next Brixton/Peckham/Stoke Newington”.
When I arrive I’m greeted by a table full of biscuits which my fellow guests are cheerfully tucking in to. But this is no custard cream or malted milk; I’m talking a warm, fluffy, buttery savoury delight that would put any garibaldi to shame. A fantastic alternative to bread, and is the first hint of many that Joe’s have put great thought into the presentation of an authentic Southern experience.
Looking at the menu too, it’s evident that Joe’s isn’t your ordinary American themed restaurant; the only widely recognised dishes being mac ‘n’ cheese and a rather tempting 8 hour slow roast beef short rib; even as a seasoned soul foodie, there are a number of dishes that I’ve never tried.
Two such dishes arrive for starters; Devilled Eggs (£3.95) and Gooey Corn Spoon Bread (£3.95). Devilled Eggs are a traditional American hors d’oeuvre, not exclusive to the South, which consists of a hard boiled egg, halved, and in this case topped with chicken skin mayo and bacon. The mayo was an interesting twist and I’m glad I sampled it, but it’s not something I’d order again in a hurry, especially now I know what’s to follow.
I’ve eaten corn bread many a time but this is a dish far removed from that; think of it as a mix of clotted cream and melted cheese, with a bit of cornmeal flour added as an afterthought. Insatiably indulgent and I unapologetically finished the whole lot, I may have found a dish I love more than mac ‘n’ cheese?!
I also order one of my all time favourites, meat loaf. Joe’s have gone all out by using a soft short beef rib and teamed alongside a poached egg and red onion jam- nothing more can be said other than sensational.
Our mains arrive with a host of sides and I can’t help but think this is what Thanksgiving dinner would look like in a Louisiana suburb. However instead of a prize turkey as the centrepiece, we have some beautiful fried chicken. And not any old fried chicken, this is 24 hour sweet tea brined chicken with lemon dust and honey glaze. The coating is just the right amount of crisp without being oily and I’m pleased to report the meat inside didn’t dry out in the pressure cooking process. Also, if you fail to order the chicken gravy to accompany the chicken alongside the mac ‘n’ cheese (£3.95) and collard greens (£3.95), you should be made to stand in the corner facing the wall. It really is THAT good- heed this warning at your peril!
Quick quiz, how do you make fried chicken even more awesome? Serve it with waffles, watermelon and bourbon maple syrup obviously! If you are reading this with a look of bewilderment on your face, my only advice would be don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Those that are aware of the wonders of chicken and waffles will not need any convincing, so I’ll say no more…
However, I must confess that even though I’m like a kid in a candy store with the waffles, melon, syrup and gravy, I still prefer a buttermilk recipe in my fried chicken. On that basis I can’t quite put Joe’s chicken in the ‘elite’ category created in my head featuring street food favourites Spit & Roast or Mother Clucker, but it’s a serious contender for a ‘Chicky’ (think of it as the chicken equivalent of the Oscars- trademark pending) in the best restaurant category.
From my review so far you’d be forgiven for thinking Joe’s is a trip solely for meat lovers but the Deep South is arguably more recognised for their love of seafood. Joe’s do not disappoint in this regard either, and I tried the Shrimp ‘n’ Grits (£16.95). Although corn grits are traditionally a breakfast food created by Native Americans, modern grits contain a host of savoury ingredients for a hearty meal. Shrimp is a common ingredient and Joe’s have teamed this with stoneground cheese, tomato, onion and bacon. I’m not a fan of grits in general, but if you’ve never tried it before, then Joe’s is the best place to give it a go.
The Deep South has always sparked an interest; from its history, to the music traditions, and of course, the food. But after experiencing so many new smells and tastes at Joe’s, that spark has been ignited. I’m off to Google flights to New Orleans.
Joe’s Southern Kitchen, 300 Kentish Town Road, NW5 2TGShare This Post