Thursday, 12 September 2013

Rotary Bar & Diner / City Road

Jazz hands! Photo once again courtesy of Mr Hazeel

Who are they?

The Rotary Bar and Diner is a relatively new established towards the south side of the concrete roundabout that is Old Street. Straddling the demarcation line between slick City of London and trendy Hoxton, it's a sign that the East End's influence is starting to extend past its established town blocks and postcodes. More importantly than town planning, can they make a decent burger?


From the outside, the Rotary is a slick black and orange affair, though inside it still retains that slightly rough around the edges feel of most East End bars and restaurants, complete with china dog ornaments over the bar. This is probably best evidenced in the way that meals are presented; only just better than a greasy spoon. The Menu itself is fairly straightforward affair, with plenty of stock burgers on offer and a variety of sides, which warranted some further exploration ahead of the main event. So we tried a liberal assortment!

Unfortunately, the Devilled Pig Skin is a bit of a disappointment, it being nothing more than very crispy and salty crackling with a serving of apple sauce. In my mind, this is something that belongs on a Sunday roast plate rather than a diner and while I can see that they are trying to bring something you might find in East London to the fore, here it's just a dry lump of skin. It's a similar story for the sticky chicken wings, which had a weird kind of taste that reminded me of sweet and sour but not quite. I don't want to make this review sound all doom and gloom though, as if you can't already tell from the above photo and the flotilla of baskets filled with burgers and chips, there's plenty to recommend these guys for.

The burger itself is a masterful slab of beef, fashioned into a fat, rounded patty complete with cheese, bacon and onions lathered in burger sauce . The bun holding this all together is a marvel in itself; a perfectly crispy outer layer and soft innards to contain the juicy delights within. This is presented in a cheap green basket together with a portion of chips and slice of gherkin. We did also order a chicken burger and some of the hot chicken wings to try out as well, so be prepared for a thorough review.

A sight to behold!
We'll start off with the sides and specifically the chips. While these are thin cut catering style chips that you can find anywhere, but their saving grace is that they are well cooked in beef drippings so as to leave that slight beef after taste and a satisfying crunchy outer layer. In fact, they reminded us of the well cooked chips that McDonalds used to offer 20+years ago before their standards slipped.

The hot chicken wings on offer are the yin to the sticky chicken wings' yang; while not as hot as other restaurants (ala Meat Mission, for example), they are definitely much better than their sickly sweet brothers and I would recommend these without hesitation. 
Even better, I am happy to report that the chicken burger that we ordered to share and try is a much bigger version of the hot wings, so you get a lovely tender piece of chicken covered with the same hot sauce and squeezed into one of those good buns. Quite simply, I have learned that if you can't chose what to have, bring and friend and share half of each. Lovely!

However, it's the burger that should be the star of the show and it certainly is here: there's plenty of beef here with a decent enough flavour, but its the burger sauce and soft onions that are the star of the show, helping to counteract anything dry within the bun and to add a signature flavour that is all at once like dill oil, mayo and even some nutty notes in there for good measure. This muddies with the cheese and bacon and in combination is greater than the sum of its parts. Personally I found it a refreshing change from the norm and it's really great to see an establishment doing something different. Size-wise, the whole meal is definitely decent value for what you receive and it's the little touches that make the Rotary Bar higher in my esteem.


Whilst the sides are hit and miss, the burger is certainly a sloppy, greasy little affair and well worth investigating.



Where can I find them?
Only one outlet in the UK at present, close to Old Street (Northern Line).