I’m almost certain that, when the young country of America came to decide upon the particulars of its national cuisine, it delegated the task to a thirteen year old boy.
And not just any thirteen year old boy. This boy is named Hank or something. He’s doughy yet supremely confident and he wears tee shirts that are too short for him and he looks absurd on a trampoline.
And Hank’s parents have gone away for the weekend to sort out some ‘grown-up problems’. And they’ve left him 50 dollars by the fridge. It’s for food, Hank. But you’re not to spend it all at once. And there’s some soup in the deep freeze. And eat your greens. But Hank, furious that he’s been left out of another holiday and irked by the sudden and completely unrelated firing of the pool boy, has other plans. Screw you, mom and dad (I’m pretty sure that’s how Americans speak – it’s certainly how they spell things), Hank says. I’m going to Wal Mart. And I’m going to spend every single penny of this guilt money on the following ingredients: cream, 3 types of syrup, an impossibly large cut of steak, some bacon, 8 quarts of batter, some corndogs (?), cream, sixteen square sausages, some orange cheese, cream, and a cubic foot of cheese-in-a-can. And then I’m going to put all of that together and many items on the list will be fried in combination with other items on the list. And everyone’s going to love it and a lot of us might die.
Well, since 2013, Southern Joe’s have been London’s chief importer of this dangerously adolescent cuisine. Their Covent Garden joint was well received, though, with its touristy location, one always felt as if the grown up Hank might squeeze in through the door at any moment and eat so much that he turns very briefly clinically dead again. But this new Kentish Town destination seems like a move in the right direction. Up here, away from the tourists and the clichés, Joe’s Southern Kitchen in Kentish Town can do what it does best: make you feel just about okay with eating absurdly decadent food.
First came the corn bread, served in a tiny skillet and groaning with orange cheese and oily double cream. I’d seen it on Instagram earlier in the day (my three most searched for hashtags at the moment are #cornbread, #cheeseparty, and #kony2012 – still reckon there’s some legs in that one, we can do it guys) but nothing could have prepared me for this tiny paddling pool of melted heaven. It was wonderful, blurring the line between starter, side and dessert in just under a thousand calories. Biscuits with sausage gravy came next, and, despite sounding like the sort of panicked combination I might prepare for a visiting Northern cousin-in-law, it was very nice indeed.
Then the mains were carted out. Our chicken two-piece came coated in a sweet tea and lemon flecked batter and served on waffles with maple syrup, and the gooey pot of mac and cheese that accompanied it took me straight back to Louisiana, which is doubly impressive as I’ve never actually been there. Both of these dishes were trumped, however, by the beef short rib that followed. An absurdly tender, charred book-end of meat riding on a creamy violet slaw, I can’t think how long this piece of real estate must have taken to rub, slow-cook and smoke: I’m pretty sure this is what baby cows want to be when they grow up. You will not be surprised when I tell you that we had no room for dessert. I rolled into my taxi-cab and trod carefully on our Edwardian staircase.
If you’re in the area, do pop in to Southern Joe’s. Lively, wholesome, outrageous, it’s the American dream as fuelled by a late night plastic cheese binge. I mean that in a very good way. As far as I’m concerned, there’s a thirteen year old American boy inside all of us clamoring for a second helping: don’t let him starve. Although it might not be a bad idea to let him diet, I suppose. It might be nice to see him in something other than those pajama trousers for once. And you might encourage him to do some exercise, perhaps some softball or whatever it is they play. And maybe try and wean him off the therapy because we’re all concerned it’s actually doing him more harm than good. And possibly try and get him enthused about anything at all beyond wrestling and Asian porn actresses. And do remind him that it’s not okay to speak to the maid like that. But, you know, keep him alive, for god’s sake.
words Joe Bullmore