Covent Garden on a Saturday night is a complete hive of excitable and anticipatory energy; al fresco diners sipping large wine glasses, groups of girls tip toeing in their heels across the uneven cobbled square, the night young and full of the promise of fun. My destination was the versatile bar, club and restaurant Roadhouse, almost snuggled in an unobtrusive corner of the plaza, the gothic grey stone entrance leading downwards into a basement, the neon flashing red ‘Roadhouse’ juxtaposing with the Notre Dame-esque outer structure.
Heading down the stairs, my first thought when I looked up was wow. Firstly, Roadhouse is massive and really nicely laid out. From my vantage point on the bottom stair, I could see across the whole floor plan. A square bar area sat on a platform in the middle of the room, easily accessible for all. Around the raised bar area where typical American diner style seating, plush red stools tucked neatly under high rounded red tables, more of this style of seating clustered around the edge of the gleaming wooden floors. A DJ booth was in the far left, next to the group eating area, where long rectangular tables were decked out in child- like red paper tablecloths, with simple fold up chairs provided.
The décor was really striking, bringing a slice of retro America slap bang into the middle of a pulsing London atmosphere. Light up pin ball machines rattled energetically by the bar, whilst iconic American logos hung from the walls and ceiling, for example, a glowing ‘Route 66’ sign and neon slogan signs with rock and roll statements such as ‘Drugs’. The lighting was dim and tinged with red, the constant American references consistent and incredibly stylish. The whole vibe of Roadhouse was completely addictive, every aspect of the venue seemed well thought out and compiled and you couldn’t help but look around with awe, almost like Charlie when first seeing the chocolate factory. Roadhouse oozed fun, so it was very apt that we were attending a friend’s birthday bash there.
Our friend had booked a table for about 13 people, so we headed towards the back of the room to find the table and took up seats near the end. The party food offer is actually a complete bargain in my book. You could nab yourself a starter, a main course and a cocktail for a mere £18.95, and with cocktails priced at £7 each, this seemed more than reasonable to me. The food was all classic American fodder, so suitable for every style of taste bud, even with a few healthier options thrown in too for good measure. Although toying with the breadcrumbed and baked camembert, I settled on the loaded potato skins in the end for my starter and I am so glad that I did as it was probably the best potato skins I have ever had. Cut into quirky triangles, the three pieces of potato were heavily loaded with melting and oozing cheddar and formed attractive strings as I attempted to cut into it. Scattered with decent sized cubes of bacon, and dunked in the sour cream provided, it was really delicious. The cheese was wonderful and soft, the potato perfectly cooked and the skins not too crunchy, so just how I like it. I nicked a bite of Jess’s calamari which was also tasty, although I preferred my choice.
Main course had me mulling for a bit longer. I couldn’t decide whether to sample salmon for the first time with their Cajun style offering served with mash, or whether to go healthy with the Louisiana style hot grilled chicken breast. However, there was one item on the menu that was simply calling me, so there was nothing for it but to go for The Works Burger, served with chips and a side salad garnish. As the name suggests, this was no ordinary burger. The prime steak burger was stacked with a huge slice of smoked bacon, an accompanying slice of cheddar cheese, sautéed mushrooms as well as caramelised onion. Served in a glazed sesame seed dusted bun my mouth literally watered when I saw this bad boy. The beef of the burger was scrumptious – it was so juicy and natural, you could tell the quality by the first bite as the rich juices ran messily down your fingers. The bacon added an extra hit of meaty flavour to enhance the beef, whilst the mushroom and onion both add depth to the beef. Lettuce and tomato zinged up the heavy burger to refresh it and I will admit that I had to cut it in half so that I could tackle it easily. The chips were also yummy, medium in size with a crunchy, vaguely oily exterior that hinted that they had been freshly fried. Soft on the inside with an attractive golden crunch on the outside – you can’t ask for more when it comes to a decent chip. The side salad was also nice, just simple with some lettuce, tomato and cucumber with a drizzle of some sort of Caesar or French dressing. Cracking open the ketchup, I heartily got stuck in to my main course, and I absolutely loved every mouthful that I devoured greedily. Definitely the right choice by far. Jess opted for the salmon, which did look smaller than my portion, although it was well cooked and she enjoyed her choice.
The cocktails at Roadhouse are quite simply legendary, and I think I sampled the majority before the night was out. Roadhouse uniquely have some form of happy hour every evening between 5.30pm and 7.30pm, so with an eye on the time, we swiftly ordered as many drinks as we could. When we first arrived and before ordering food, Jess and I decided to start the night off with a Porn Storm, a vanilla vodka concoction, with passion fruit liqueur and juice as well as some Cava. Served in a tall glass with a decorative wedge of passion fruit, this definitely set the right tone for the evening. With our food, I chose the Raspberrylicious, which was refreshing raspberry vodka paired with fresh raspberries, Chambord, lemon juice, sugar syrup and lemonade. Nice and light to have over food so I enjoyed that one. Next I went for one decidedly more decadent – the Cookies ‘n’ Cream. I really enjoy a creamy, chocolate cocktail so when I saw the ingredients that compromised this cocktail, my eyes lit up. Luckily for me it didn’t disappoint, being a lovely silky texture full of a subtle punchy back note whilst being soft and easy to drink. This one contained Brugal Blanco and dark cacao with cookie syrup and chocolate sauce. I also managed to sneak in two types of Daiquiri – both the strawberry and raspberry versions, which were both divine and I am almost tempted to say my favourite choices of the night. These frozen cocktails would have given an amateur brain freeze but I handled the Brugal Blanco rum nicely as it was blended with the fresh fruit.
Once we moved from the eating table to the dance table, I went for another creamy choice – sniggering as Jess went to order me a Screaming Orgasm, containing vodka, Disaronno amaretto, Kahlua, Baileys and cream. Served in a tall glass with a suggestive swirl of whipped cream topped with a cheeky cherry, this one was another of my favourites as it was so lovely. It had a seductive nutty vibe and an almost dessert, sundae-like feel to it that felt very indulgent. It contained pretty much all of my favourite luxury boozes, so this one was definite winner for me as well.
I have to confess I was very impressed by Roadhouse, and even now Jess and I are stroking our chins contemplatively about whether or not to have our birthday shindig come March here. It is fabulously all inclusive with something for everyone. Guys will be more than happy with the simplistic and high quality all American food, with burgers, hot dogs, chicken and ribs galore. Your girlfriends on the other hand will be super impressed with the high calibre cocktail menu, offering a bedazzling choice of some of the delicious cocktails I have ever sampled in my life. All beautifully presented, and actually tasting of alcohol instead of fruit juice, they seriously were the best cocktails I have had, and at £7 a pop, really reasonable for central London, especially in such a social hive such as Covent Garden. The party deal is a bargain, and the music was awesome too, with some throwback 80’s and 90’s soft rock mixed with modern tunes to provide the perfect sing-a-long soundtrack for a good night out. Come 10.00pm, they even introduce a live band on to the stage to perform cover tracks, keeping the theme of the music so you can’t help but have your toes tapping and your head bopping. Fantastically electric yet comfortable atmosphere, with every aspect ticking my boxes. Probably the best venue I have come across for a group gathering where everyone can enjoy the night out, so that is a massive advantage. I’m looking forward to returning!