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Review

Roadhouse

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Jubilee Hall, 35 The Piazza, Covent Garden WC2

020 7240 6001



The Maxwell’s Group, as regular readers of the site will be aware, is one of London’s most stalwart "give-the-public-what-they-want" chains. Their burger/steaks/chicken heavy menus are hugely reliable and excellent value. However, within the chain there’s a great deal of difference. Let’s call it the Maxwell’s spectrum. At one end, there’s Cactus Blue, their very-good-indeed Mexican-flavoured Fulham Road eaterie. In the middle, there’s Maxwell’s, Sticky Fingers and Navajo Joe’s. And then at the other end, there’s Roadhouse.

As a restaurant, Roadhouse makes a very good bar. That probably sounds like a complaint but it’s not meant to. Like its sister restaurants, Roadhouse merely plays to its strengths. And, given the central location, the apparently eternal Happy Hour and its place in the hearts of London’s young revellers, Roadhouse’s strengths revolve around liquid refreshment and loud, live music. The bar is huge, the beer is cold and the cocktails are plentiful. The food, while remarkable value – before 8.30pm, starters are £3 and mains £5! – is more of a hit and miss affair. When it’s good, it’s very good. When it’s bad…

Take our meal. My companion tucked into Beef Brochettes (usually £5.95), which involved beef skewers, pitta bread, peppers and onions in a perfectly decent combination. My Basket of Red Eye Wings (also normally £5.95) was a cut above. Slow cooked chicken wings, smothered in a smoky messy sauce, served in a tortilla basket alongside a blue cheese dip. The dip was nothing special, ditto the basket, but the meat was tender, flavoursome and gloriously messy and got a big thumbs up.

Fortunes were reversed in the mains - when they finally arrived. Sizzling Lamb Fillet – served with caramelised fennel, onions and sweet peppers – would have been overpriced at the usual £12.95 but for a fiver? Hard to grumble. The Turf ‘n’ Surf Burger was a different story. First time out, chips were cold and the burger, once the prawns and seafood sauce had been scraped off, was burnt. So, back to the kitchen it went… Some minutes later, a slightly less burnt burger – and piping hot chips – arrived. The quality of the meat was obvious despite the charring. The quality of the grill cook was obvious because of it.

All in all, dining at Roadhouse was frustrating: excellent service, however friendly, a nigh constant flow of beer (during Happy Hour, Corona is two for £3.40) and the ludicrous prices can’t quite make up for the temperamental nature of the kitchen. Disappointing.