My expectations were high.
I had been there last week, to help put the final touches to the paintwork. Bea had chosen a great colour scheme: "Cornell Red", blackboard paint and shades of grey, accented with old 7" records and vintage music finds. She has also recruited a young team, both front and back of house, whom I am sure she is busily training up to her exacting standards! It is a small space (only 40 covers), but I think the idea is good food, served fast. No cutlery, just a massive pile of paper napkins to catch all that juice! Tucked away just off Carnaby Street, in Kingly Court, it feels good.
The other source of my high expectations is my experience working with Bea at her pop-up diner at Maltby Street. Sadly no longer operating, it was here that Bea first served up huge plates of French toast and maple bacon, buttermilk pancakes and bottomless coffees. The loyal clientele from the Maltby Street days can rest assured that the Diner's spirit and soul lives on at Stax.
So, on to our dinner...
Despite a tempting array of alcoholic drinks (including IPA ice cream floats!) we stuck to soft drinks, with raspberry iced tea and an Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half iced tea). My RIT was fab - made with fresh raspberries and beautifully refreshing.
We hummed and haa'ed a while, before choosing a Po'Boy and a fried chicken bun (the "chickadee"). We also felt duty bound to order the onion blossom!
There were, let's be completely honest, a few standard teething issues. But this was the "friends and family" night so all feedback here is constructive. The waitresses were not working completely as a team, with two different girls asking us at various different times for our orders. Perhaps they hadn't worked out the table numbers yet? They seemed a little nervous, but that is understandable! I was a little worried about the queue backing out the door at one point, but soon the food started flowing from the pass.
I think our highlight of the night was the fried chicken. Hot, juicy, crispy, tender - everything you could possibly ask for. The brioche bun was nice too, but to be honest I'd have been just as happy with a bucket of the chicken. The husband's Po'Boy also delivered. To quote: "a fried prawn cocktail in a bun".
The blooming onion is a Cajun-spiced revelation. It's a whole onion, intricately sliced (and then battered) in order to resemble a blossoming flower once deep fried. Be prepared to get your hands dirty here. To be honest, we could've done with some cutlery at this point!
I should mention that we came as early as possible (6.30pm) so we could bring The Boy along before his bedtime. He'd done pretty well in his buggy, alongside our stools out on the balcony. But he was by now fast getting tired and irritable (and liable to throw things off said balcony) so we had to sneak off before trying any of the desserts. A great pity! But we will definitely be back soon. For the soft opening week (commencing Friday 13 June 2014), there is 50% off your total bill. For more information see http://www.staxdiner.com.
Please note: we were invited along to take part in the pre-opening "Friends and Family" night. All views expressed above are my own.