This Southern American spot has taken up residency down a small City backstreet, well tucked away above a pub called The Rising Sun. There’s little to give it away from the outside when walking past, so congratulate yourself on being in the know when you get there!
I’m sure those members of the Boozy Bunch with American roots are undoubtedly better qualified to talk about authentic Southern food. I’m afraid I can’t tell you if the brisket tastes just like it does in Texas or if they do grits the way they should be done. But what I can say is that this is hearty (though perhaps not so good for your heart), comforting Southern food done well. Their website uses the words ‘soul-enriching’ which seems quite apt, though I’d use it alongside ‘waistline-enriching’ too (I err did actually have to loosen the belt on my dress a notch whilst at the table).
I visited one Friday lunchtime with my colleagues, having booked ahead for our party of 9. After following the narrow staircase up from the side of the pub, we were greeted warmly by our server and led around to the furthest area from the entrance which almost forms a private room. The décor isn’t anything exciting – a fairly plain set of wooden tables and white walls, but then it is a limited residency so perhaps understandable that it needs to adapt to different tenants.
Having booked for the opening time of midday we were the first group to arrive, which may have played a part in the over-attentive service initially. We enjoyed our waitress’s chatty manner, as it put everyone at ease and she was happy to answer questions about some of the menu items. But the way she kept returning to the table every 30 seconds soon grew quite disconcerting; she would adjust a fork or top up an inch of water in one person’s glass then wander off before coming back to repeat. Luckily she stopped coming on quite so strong once the food appeared and the other tables filled up a bit.
On to the food then, which was probably some of the most calorific but also the most delicious I’ve had in ages. We ordered starters for the table to share: Gator Bites out of curiosity and Poutine as one of the girls hadn’t tried it. I’d actually tried ‘gator’ once before when in Kenya but never like this – lightly coated in panko breadcrumb with a moreish sweet chilli dip. I loved it, particularly with the touch of having real chillies chopped into the dip to give it an added kick.
Main courses span many of the southern classics you could probably guess, from gumbo to ribs to picklebacks to chicken & waffles. It’s a menu you can tell has been crafted with a real love for this cuisine. As soon as I spotted Chicken Fried Steak I couldn’t resist ordering it, and I count it as one of the best decisions I made all week. It was probably the largest main course portion at the whole table and I could see a few of my teammates green with food envy when it arrived. It’s a dish that seems to be increasingly prevalent around London as the fried chicken craze takes its next turn, combining its best parts with the fun of eating steak underneath. If you’re not familiar with it, the clue is not in the name in this case, as there’s actually no chicken in it at all. Rather it refers to the fact that the steak is fried in a similar manner to chicken; in this case a juicy rib-eye deep fried in a coating of buttermilk and seasoned flour. It’s a rich dish that’s not for the faint-hearted and tasted amazing, like nothing I’ve eaten before. I really enjoyed the peppery gravy and pleasingly skinny fries it was served with (fries have to be either skinny or extra fat in my book), and aside from a few fatty bits that I left aside the meat was just delicious. Perhaps to be expected from a team that have worked at Hawksmoor in the past.
My teammates mostly seemed to enjoy their (smaller!) mains too; one particular foodie colleague noticed that his Jambalaya pot wasn’t as full as the guy’s sitting next to him so promptly complained. Our waitress returned it a few minutes later, I think having just added more liquid, but at least they made a token effort. I don’t think it would’ve been a problem had his neighbour not had a particularly overflowing pot whilst his was half full (or rather, half empty).
I think we were all ready for nap time after such a fabulous feed rather than a return to the office. An evening visit would probably make better use of the rum and bourbon heavy cocktail list and maybe a dessert; much as I wanted to try the Oreo Cheesecake, I just didn’t have room after my CFS! I think it’s the kind of place that works well for both groups and date night, and is actually decent value for what you get. The reason it doesn’t stay a cheap eat though is that you’ll want to order everything just to taste it!
Overall, the perfect soul food spot to fatten up for winter hibernation, served with some warm southern hospitality. Miss it, miss out.
Upstairs at The Rising Sun Pub, 61 Carter Lane, London, EC4V 5DY