|A winner: flat iron chicken with preserved lemon and hash browns.|
Soho House has run the rooms above the Electric Cinema as its private club Electric House since 2002, only taking over the ground-floor restaurant after a recent fire. Inspired by a visit to Chicago's French-American diner Au Cheval, the group brought in the mastermind behind them, chef Brendan Sodikoff, to help create a version in London.
The Electric Diner serves breakfast until midday, and then an all-day menu until late at night. The vaulted space is dressed in bare brick and green enamelled tiles, with an open kitchen that faces the bar running almost the length of the restaurant. And while it's nice to watch the chefs, a fair amount of heat from all that grilling and frying made its way over to our perch on knowingly-retro red leather banquettes.
Sodikoff has supplied favourite dishes direct from Au Cheval - think fried bologna sandwich - and befitting a diner, you can get eggs served all day with anything from spinach and blue cheese to crispy potato hash and duck heart gravy by way of a Full English. Straight-up burgers look impressively gooey under their glistening brioche buns, and the shaved beef rib with Monterey Jack cheese is a nod to Chicago's famous Italian Beef Sandwich.
Mains mix the confident simplicity of French country cooking and the boldness of American plates. The honey and chilli-fried chicken was more sweet than bite, but demanded to be grabbed by the bone to hoover up every fleck of meat. No menu should be without steak frites, and the béarnaise-doused rendition here was a lesson on simple things done well. Meanwhile, fish lovers will find cod the likes of capers and lemon and grilled salmon. And while the menu changes daily, there was no substantial vegetarian option when we visited - Chicago is the land of meat, after all, ancestral home of America's stockyards.
The stand out for us was the flat-iron chicken: two boneless, spatchcocked breasts flattened, griddled and blackened to a crispy charred skin, the flesh beneath as succulent as any we've ever eaten, and the dark taste of the char met with the tang of preserved lemon among the bird's juices. Crispy, hand-shredded hash browns made a fine alternative to chips, there's plates of gherkins for those needing a vinegar fix and the range of salad plates includes avocado, quinoa and feta and a sort of Waldorf with apple and blue cheese. With portion size somewhere between hearty and heart-stopping, this will happen more frequently than you think.
A quick look around the bustling upstairs club rooms finished with a drink in the Library, a dim, atmospheric and phone-free room filled with books and records where drinkers can pick from the vinyl to soundtrack their own evening. The drinks were strong and expertly made, where Sazerac, gin and bitters, and sour vermouths help settle the meal. It's a shame that we'll be restricted to the ground floor next time. But on reflection, not that much.
Electric Diner, 191 Portobello Road, W11 2ED
t: 020 7908 9696