Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Disco Bistro

One of London’s previously unloved and underused gems (and greatest assets) are the dining rooms on the first floor of many pubs. Central London in particular is replete with these, and successes such as Flat Iron, The Young Turks and many more have originated from humble takeovers of such space. It seems win win in this age of crazy rents and start-up costs.

And while Sam Smith's nabbed all of the show-stopping gin palaces long ago, with the right treatment these dining rooms can be incredibly handsome, resplendent with period features and atmosphere.

Disco Bistro in the deepest alleys of the City is one such venture. The ground floor is The Rising Sun pub, still hawking £5 Peronis to yakky, gakky suited boozers but I imagine the dining room was previously sentenced to a servitude of team fish & chips Fridays and not much of note in between.

Bore that I am, I had to try the famous Disco Burger which is conventional enough, with the exception of a mound of beef short rib. However rest assured that the menu at Disco Bistro ranges far beyond wings and burgers, and includes quite grown-up, sophisticated plates, solid fish options and noteworthy creative execution. Doesn’t sound like me though, so wings and burger it was…

My visit was with a group of fellow bloggers, food nuts and SLR shooters, and feedback was unanimously positive across the various dishes ordered. I hasten to add at this stage that we all paid full price for everything.

This merry band enabled me to try a sticky wing as well as my own portion of spicy (both £7). The sticky wings were strongly flavoured with vinegar, yes there was sweetness beneath but the sharp, pickled taste was dominant. This isn’t a criticism for me personally, sour as I am, but it may not be for everyone. I’d say they’d work better as a bar snack.

I did prefer the spicy wings, which weren’t overly hot but had a decent warmth. Flavour was closer to an almost-Asian chilli route than a cayenne pepper/Buffalo recipe, and especially without obligatory blue cheese and crudité support, these more than stood up on their own.

With popularity comes debate, and wing portion size has become a contentious issue on Twitter of late. Not quite Syria or equal marriage, but a crucial topic all the same. At just under £1 per wing, this is up there with MEATliquor for both value and quality..

The burger was excellent too. Value-wise, less so. At £14, this will no doubt send many people running for either the hills or The Hawksmoor (about a 10 min walk, near a Goodman too) but bear with me. The short rib adds a depth of flavour and juice which I don’t think pulled pork experiments have accomplished as well. The patty itself was perfectly cooked to medium rare without any mention prior (plus point) and the practically liquefied cheese oozed everywhere. 

One gripe was the barbecue sauce – not only did it make a mess and derail the architectural integrity of the burger (yes I did just write that) but even worse, it simply wasn’t necessary. The quality of the contents sang through more than confidently without it. Fries were fine, but not remarkable.

On to dessert, and another universal trend of late, the doughnuts. I was a little slow to understand this, much as the whole Krispy Kreme craze baffled me too. They weren’t a step change from supermarket ones at all. And I’m a bit new to the savoury and even meat flavoured versions which Electric Diner among others are now slinging. The oxtail one at Two Nights Only I didn’t enjoy particularly.

Luckily Disco Bistro's hark back to basics in theory, but with contemporary execution. These are gingerbread doughnut balls with a pot of lemon curd for dunking. Fantastic – with the lemon providing freshness and a sharpness to diminish the risk of overt doughiness, and the gingerbread providing a homely warmth to compliment the horrible winter outside. 

Service was friendly and accomplished; our group of 14-odd ‘foodies’ wouldn’t seem the easiest punters on paper, but it all seemed a breeze. One mini gripe was the beer situation. Better bottles please, or deliver pints to upstairs. The service charge should cover that. And another slight disappointment was the vibe itself; perfectly buzzy sure, but not disco enough! I wanted more fun and better music, they could definitely go further with the disco house and the volume. Not thinking Car Wash and wigs here…

I’m not quite sure what the long term plans for Disco Bistro are, as the pub dining room takeover seems to be a springboard rather than a permanent home, so I would implore people to go as soon as they can.

Drink – 6/10 
Service - 8/10 
Tap water tales7/10 (jugs provided, not topped up)
Staff Hotness – 8/10 (friendly, pretty waitresses, clued up on the menu)

Disco Bistro EC4 on Urbanspoon