I booked a table at Rotary Bar and Diner within days of reading a glowing review on the Burgerac blog. Dubbed as ‘frankly, epic’ and taking the boy’s propensity for a dirty chicken burger, we popped along on a hot Saturday night last weekend.
Not fancying wine after two nights of booze on the trot, we settled for the far more sensible pint cocktails to drink – £10 a pop. I’m not entirely sure some of them could classify as an actual pint, but they were rather large. I ordered two different ones featuring gin and vodka/ rose respectively (alright I’ll have a bit of wine then). They tasted good, but they didn’t taste like booze. The boy knows a good thing when he gets it and stuck to the Hawaiian Stone Sours – Dewar’s 12, pineapple, lemon and honey. With a sharp tang that hit you in the back of the throat like a boozy gobstopper, these were just right. Have one of them. Heck, have two. Go crazy. They also served a big jug of ice water with lemon and ribbons of cucumber. I’m a fan of free fruity water. Thumbs up.
We stuck straight in with the sticky chicken wings and Cornish crab cakes starters – going sticky over hot because the chicken roll main comes in hot sauce (aren’t we clever). The chicken wings were another OMFG moment. I’m having a lot of those with fried food at the moment. Sweet, sharp, spicy, peppery and yum – they were smothered in what can only be likened to a Chinese lemon sauce, with a dash of pepper to give them some heat. The chicken tasted like top grade stuff, and the coating maintained it’s crispness despite all that crumb-soaking sauce. I had no problem gnawing at the bones like a hungry pup.
The Cornish crab cakes were less glorious and pretty insipid next to the might of the wings. There was too much oil-slicked lettuce and not enough chipotle mayo. The pickled cucumbers were a welcome addition. The crab cakes were teeny little things and with only two of them to boot, they were like an amuse-bouche lacking a sense of humour. I’m not one for spending £7 on something the size of a 50p piece – and about as flat as well. Avoid.
Next, the burgers. Ah, the burgers, they were the ebony and ivory of culinary endeavour. First, we had the chicken roll. On the small side of average (but big enough), the chicken glistened hot-sauce red, slathered over a coat of golden crumbs. Now I didn’t like traditional hot sauce last time I encountered it at MEATmission, but this time, it was a revelation – tangy, spicy, a little sweet and moreish as hell. Chin-dribbling, finger-lickin’ good. There was some salad in there but you don’t want to hear about that. The only let down was what Mary Berry would have described as a ‘soggy bottom’ – the lower bun slice had disintegrated into white doughy goo before we’d even had the chance to pick it up. This was a deal breaker for the boy, who declared it good, but not the best. For me, it was better than the rest. Better than Lucky Chip’s Goldie Hawn – and that’s good (I love you Lucky Chip, forgive me, your beef burgers are still the shit).
But then, the day boat bun with Cornish pollock. Oh dear, stick to the poultry day job, boys. It was disgusting. I mean it. The fish, was which evenly covered in a darker, smooth-crumbed batter – that’s not a good thing – was massive, flaky and perfect looking. But looks are deceiving – it was SO BLAND. I mean, wasn’t this fish swimming in the fucking sea as of late, I’m pretty sure that’s salty, where the fuck is the seasoning? Is someone allergic to FLAVOUR back there in that kitchen? Someone needs to pull their finger out of their arse and sprinkle some salt on this fishy bad boy (washing their hands first, preferably).
To make up for the lack of flavour, they poured some sauce on it – which miraculously managed to make it worse. It was a watered down Thousand Island dressing – that’s a compliment. Where was the SPICY crab sauce? Then there was some fennel in it, and maybe in the sauce too – so this flavourless goop had this one note – aniseed. I fucking hate aniseed. It’s like eating food dipped in Sambuca. It brings back memories of working in bars and forcing down the thick sludge to get through the horror of sixteen-hour shifts. Eurgh, no thanks. I gave my half of the burger to the boy after one mouthful, and he finished it, even though he didn’t like it either. Then he complained about being too full the rest of the evening. Bad luck buddy.
There is some light at the end of the tunnel though: the chips were magnificent. They were a really dark golden yellow – almost porous soaking up all that beef dripping. Akin to Maccy D chips, but a little fatter and crispier on the outside. Nom. They come as standard with the mains – as they should for £12 a pop.
Oh, I forgot to add the sides. They were okay. The house slaw was meant to be vinegar based but had no sharpness whatsoever – I didn’t mind it too much, the last vinegar slaw I had at Beard To Tail set my teeth on edge and put me off the stuff for life. The boy hated it. The BBQ pork beans were the equivalent of Southern-fried Laphroaig whiskey – the first mouthful was like eating an ashtray. Second mouthful, because you should always double check, was better. Then I quite liked it and had some more – it was a good cleanser after that aniseed-y fish. But don’t order it if you want to taste anything else for the rest of the evening. It’s a lingerer. And you don’t need sides, the mains are big enough – get the chicken wings instead.
All in all, it was an evening of two halves. The chicken was fantastic – both wings and burger. ‘Best wings I’ve had in London’ is a tall order from the boy. Both fish starter and main were shockingly bad, and the sides were lackluster but fine. The more robust cocktails had flavour but the girlier ones tasted watered down – come on, this isn’t Wetherspoons. I would recommend you pop down if you’re in the area one evening and stuck for somewhere to eat – and like chicken.
If you don’t fancy that, then you can always pop to Yum Bun, which has set up shop right next door. You can eat it in the bar if you buy a drink. That’s what we’ll be doing this weekend. And maybe just one portion of the wings. Just to check.