As an American expat in London, I often have pangs of homesickness for American food, which I write about here often! I'm guilty of standing in front of the "American snacks" aisle at Tesco, eyes misting over with tears (I kid, I kid) as I stare at the bottles of Aunt Jemima syrup, jars of Jif extra crunchy peanut butter, and boxes of Lucky Charms. So, when Zomato UK invited me to try Honky Tonk Chelsea (once home to the world's most expensive burger) I jumped at the opportunity to load up on ribs, fried chicken, and shakes .
Located on Hollywood Road in Chelsea, Honky Tonk is a medium-sized restaurant with an Americana theme and a very clever slogan: "American flavour, British behaviour". Restrained it isn't: the menu bursts at the seams with dishes like Craw Daddy Crab Cakes, Buffalo Wings, Blumdog Billionaire Hot Dogs, and the Honky Tonk Combo (which I'll get to a little later).
As someone who's lactose intolerant, I miss milkshakes so, so much. Sometimes I even slip and order one, even if I know there will be "consequences" (without getting into too much detail ... sorry, that was probably already TMI). In this case, I couldn't resist trying the Banana & Butterscotch shake, which was ice cold, thick, and positively delicious - just like the kind we have in the States!
Although our reservation was at 6:30, the restaurant filled up quickly since it was Saturday night. There's also a bar area at the front where you can just meet for cocktails and bar snacks, which is great if you're just in the mood for a quick fix. The playlist is upbeat and fun (I Shazam-ed three songs while I was there), giving me the impression that it'd be a fun place to celebrate a birthday with friends.
In the restaurant, some of the tables are arranged - shall we say - creatively: John and I sat side-by-side, facing a pillar and directly gazing at another table ahead (though I wouldn't have noticed - I was too busy Instagramming, oops) and I think the couple next to us also felt a little awkward sitting side-by-side as well. I also raised my brows a little at the costume de rigueur for the waitresses, which seemed to be denim hotpants (I secretly cheered at the one waitress who defied this by wearing hers over black opaques versus sporting bare legs on a cold November evening) since I take issue with women being objectified in such a way for the purpose of attracting particular clientele (and, sorry to disappoint you, but most restaurants in America aren't filled with pretty young things wearing denim hotpants for your viewing pleasure) BUT .... that's all a little too deep for this blog post. I'll talk about gender politics somewhere else (like, to myself).
Anyway, this didn't put us off our appetizer of crab cakes, which were very, very good.
The batter was perfectly crispy and the sweet chilli mayo and sweetcorn salsa were perfect accompaniments. The crab filling was piping hot and freshly made, which has proved difficult to find in other American establishments.
For the main ... well, we went a little crazy and ordered the Honky Tonk Combo: two pieces of Honky Tonk's famous "not" fried chicken, half a rack of pork ribs in bourbon sauce, a generous helping of pulled pork, buffalo chicken wings and two portions of rosemary fries. We added a side salad and an order of corn-on-the-cob for good measure.
I managed about two-thirds before I was completely defeated. The wings and ribs were good: spicy and tender, though the pulled pork was a bit too sweet for my tastebuds. I could definitely see this being a terrific final stop on a night out - that chicken and those fries would be amazing after a night of partying!
For dessert, I would have loved to order the Mississippi Mudslide, but opted for the waffle with chocolate sauce, ice cream, and strawberries instead, as a "lighter" alternative.
Since I'd reached my dairy quota for the evening, I steered clear of the vanilla ice cream, but the chocolate sauce and waffle combination was a winner. I was as little disappointed that the "fresh strawberries" actually ended up being one strawberry sliced four ways, but it still made for a rather tasty dessert.
Verdict: if you're craving American food, you can do better than The Diner by popping over to Honky Tonk Chelsea. Definitely order the shake (especially if you're not lactose intolerant - you have no excuse not to!) because it's damn delicious and the crab cakes are worth a whirl too. I bet the Honky Dogs are good and the next time I go, I'll consider giving the quesadilla a try.
I was generously hosted by Honky Tonk Chelsea and Zomato UK. All opinions are my own.
UPDATE: Sadly, this restaurant has now closed. Try Honky Tonk Clapham for your American fix.