Test Driving the new Joe's Bar and menu at Joe Allen - theatreland's great bargain treat

joe's bar at joe allen londonThe new look Joe's Bar - a perfect spot to catch up with friends. 

So what do we need to know about Joe Allen?

The theatreland favourite has only just reopened its doors for the first time since the first lockdown. If you've never been, this New York-style bar aims to bring an off-Broadway vibe to London. It opened here way back in 1977 and, apart from a short gap when it relocated from Exeter Street to its current spot on Burleigh Street, it's been providing theatregoers and theatre staff with sustenance ever since.

Why are you visiting it now?

The past few months have seen some major changes at the classic London restaurant. There's a new head chef - Gary Lee comes here from years at The Ivy - and a new-look Joe's Bar. That and the fact that it's back open after such a long time made us make the trip.

Where exactly is it?

You'll find it just off the Strand as you walk up Burleigh Street to Covent Garden. It's equidistance between Charing Cross, Temple and Covent Garden tube stations.

Where should we meet for a drink first?

Obviously here at Joe's Bar. There always was a bar area at Joe Allen but it now has its own identity. They've also had the genius idea to bring in Joe Allen alumnus Russell Norman to oversee the bar. Russell started his life in restaurants here, working as a waiter in the late eighties. Now - on top of opening Brutto across town in Clerkenwell - he's been in charge of the design, bar snacks menu and cocktail list at Joe's Bar. Drinks-wise he's revived some old classics like the Jerry Thomas Manhattan alongside new additions.

joe's bar at joe allen londonLeft to right: Raspberry Lynchburg with Wild Turkey, Lemonade, Chambord (£10) and the New York Wasp made with Monte Alban Mezcal and Galliano with a Salt and Paprika rim (£9.95)

There's also the bar food to check out. This is a special menu available at Joe's Bar and it features chef Gary Lee's take on Russell classics like his Spuntino truffle egg toast, which here becomes a truffle cheese toastie.

joe's bar at joe allen londonIn addition to the Truffled Cheese Toastie (£9), there's also a Love It Or Hate It (£4.75) marmite twist along with sweet, salt and chilli cashews (this pic is a general selection of the bar snacks).

And the food?

The food, as you might imagine from a place with a sister restaurant in New York's Theater District, generally follows the old-school NYC theme. So there are baby back ribs, an off-menu burger that's the worst kept secret in London and Joe's chilli dog on offer. New to the menu are Gary's dishes including one import from the Ivy - a crispy duck and watermelon salad.

Here's what we had:

joe's bar at joe allen londonMr Allen’s steak tartare (£11.50 for the starter portion) - nice to have an old-school tartare 

joe's bar at joe allen londonCrusted Cod fillet with shrimp gumbo, chorizo, braised coco beans, sherry and tomato (£24)

joe's bar at joe allen londonCajun-spiced rubbed chicken breast with black-eyed bean salsa, plantain crisps & chicken gravy (£19)

What's on offer for vegetarians?

Plenty - from the beetroot, feta and orange salad to roasted squash risotto with crispy sage and Twineham Grange cheese.

Room for dessert?

There better be, as you'll need to order at least one of the Joe Allen classics.

joe's bar at joe allen londonNew York cheesecake with raspberries (£9.50) - this has been on the menu since the restaurant's early days

joe's bar at joe allen londonPumpkin crème brulée (£9) - a massive portion. Dive deep and you'll find pumpkin puree underneath the custard.

What's the wine list?

It's as accessible as the rest of the menu with a bottle starting at an incredibly low (for pretty much any part of London) £23 for their French house red and whites. And even if you treat yourself you're not going to go too hard - the priciest bottle is a Veuve Fourny et Fils Champagne at £75.

Overall thoughts:

Move over Zedel, the revamped Joe Allen is after your crown as one of London's best value restaurants to have a good time. Russell Norman's Joe's Bar is a great addition and it'll please both Joe Allen's longstanding customers and attract newer ones. Job done.


More about Joe Allen

Where is it? 2 Burleigh St, London WC2E 7PX

How to book? Book online

Find out more: Visit their website or follow them on Instagram @joeallenlondon.

Hot Dinners dined as guests of Joe Allen. Prices correct at the time of publication. 

Bar photo: Charlie McKay

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