We went to the soft opening of Boondocks, Old Street to sample what was what in this American Deep South diner. I’d heard rumours of crawfish and have read impressive things about head chef Bea Vo’s Kingly Court (near Carnaby St) place, Stax. Now opening a second restaurant in Old Street, they have more space and more potential for a larger menu and more varied dishes. So I thought I would pop down and see what was what!
We arrived before 7pm (the launch time for the soft opening) and even though there were over 20 seats free, and we were second back in the queue, we still had to stand on the step outside waiting for over 30 minutes. This irked me rather as the hostess didn’t provide any information and seeing a half empty restaurant confused both me and my fellow queue-mates. What was the issue? Maybe I have been spoilt for restaurant queues (I’ve been in a few) as the Flat Iron soft opening had a massive queue but the staff kept everyone informed and provided a complimentary slushie and some popcorn to snack on while we waited. But this wasn’t the case here and I’d recommend just keeping your waiting diners informed if you are doing a soft opening with queues…a number of people left through frustration but I was in this to complete the task at hand – the tryings of new food.
So anyway, when we did sit down there was still a hefty queue and maybe 16 or so free seats. Interesting. These did slowly fill up. When we were given the menus we were advised that approx seven of the menu items weren’t available…surprising as this was the second day of the soft opening so you would think the place would be stocked up. Ah well. It limited us a little but not too much so it wasn’t overly heartbreaking.
As the soft opening meant the food was half price, we decided to go a little nuts and over-order so we could try more dishes. And through sheer greed. Four starters, a main each and chips (plus dessert but that comes later) was our choice and we ordered them in the usual ‘starters first’ manner, followed by the mains and then the side.
The food was served in good time but….all at once. Two starters came out then the mains were brought at the same time so I queried this and said we thought the starters would be out before the mains…the server said that the starters could also be sides. As we had ordered so much to sample, it didn’t leave much room on the table and we had to clear off the condiment box to fit it all on. Some feedback: ask diners if they would like their starters first or alongside their main dish. It kind of makes sense that customers want starters if they order the dishes before mains, yanno?
We also struggled as we’d expected an interval between courses and as there wasn’t one felt the need to try and shove it all in our faces and weren’t sure what to have first to make sure we didn’t miss anything at its best temperature. We didn’t want the mains going cold while we had our starters or vice-versa. So it was a bit of a pick and mix.
Popcorn Shrimp Bucket – These were tasty, kind of sweet, fresh and piping hot. Served with ‘Comeback Sauce’ though I’m unsure what it is…slightly spicy, like a thin spicy mayo. I’m not a fan of shrimp so I was surprised how well these went down with me. My favourite part of the meal…I think!
French Fried Pickles – Large pickles quartered and battered but a kind of dry peppered, herby crumb. They were served with ranch dressing. For me they were cut too thick – if I have a fried pickle I like it to be thinly sliced and crunchy rather than mainly pickle. If that makes sense? Anyway, I only had a couple of these so they weren’t a main focus for me.
Buttermilk Biscuits and Country Beef Gravy – These are not the biscuits you and I know. These are more like savoury scones – a baked item with firm outside and a softer interior. I had biscuit as part of a breakfast in Las Vegas and it was pretty delicious so thought I would try it here. They were served coldish at Boondocks but I still really enjoyed them. They had a ‘gravy’ poured on them but again it wasn’t the gravy we’d recognise in the UK – it was more of a creamy possibly slightly cheesy sauce. Very nice..
Fried Green Tomatoes – I ordered these because we watched Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistlestop Cafe in an English class and it brought up some funny memories. I thought hey, why not try these even just for the name. They came out and were indeed green! Lightly coated in a battery breadcrumb outer, these were juicy, crispy and very enjoyable. They came with a pot of ranch dressing and worked best with a little dip-in,,,,recommended, get involved!
Chicken Fried Steak – This is actually beef. So, beef steak fried up in the same way fried chicken is. Confusing! This had a nice fried coating and the beef was flattened to maybe 1cm thick or less, battered, fried then plated. So this really did look like a chicken goujon kind of situation. This was covered with a gravy mixture which after a while went soggy. This was a good try but one I think I will leave for the future…my steaks prefer to be pure meat. The accompaniment for this chicken fried steak was mash potato – this was delicious, smooth and buttery. Yes thank you please kindly. I liked. There was also a pile o’corn on the plate which was also quite buttery…softer than other sweetcorn I’ve had so it makes me wonder if this was tinned? Who knows. Nice regardless of being tinned or free-corn.
Chips – They seemed fresh but we could have left those out of our order. However, these may have been easier to get through if we had two courses rather than one massive course. Nothing too notable, chips is chips here!
S’mores – Hand made Graham crackers with marshmallows and ‘Valrhona Milk Chocolate’. This was a fun little pudding. We got a little fire pot and could roast our marshmallows over it, to smoosh between two Graham crackers when you reckon it’s ready. We also had a piece of chocolate, but having looked up Valrhona chocolate it doesn’t seem like this is what we had…we were served up three chocolate coins. Maybe they didn’t have it in just yet. We ordered 3 S’mores as that was the minimum but this would definitely have to be a sharing dish – at minimum three purchase and £2.75 a pop that’s an £8.25 dessert looking at you. It was nice but for some crackers, marshmallows and chocolate coins I’m not sure on the value for money here.
Boondocks served up some different grub and I am thankful for the popcorn shrimp and biscuits..plus the half price S’mores! The mix up with the starters/mains was agitating so I think the service could be improved here, and it also took us a long time to grab attention to pay our bill. I think I would have enjoyed my experience more if we didn’t have the lack of communication at the start and then a couple more inconveniences throughout the meal. We heard the staff apologising to a few people around us so I think maybe this soft opening really was a proper dry run and things were a bit up in the air. I’m hoping the team are more settled now for a better customer experience.
As I’ve mentioned, my favourite bits of foods here were the Fried Green Tomatoes, the Popcorn Shrimp and the S’mores and they were very delicious indeed. Unsure on the s’mores at the £8 price, they were tasty and fun but at a bit of a cost.
Decoration wise this was a pretty restaurant with interesting bits and bobs stuck on the walls and a lot of fairy lights, Definitely approved on that front!
Overall, a bit meh and I fully believe this would have been a smiley review from me if the service had been up to scratch. 1) Check when customers want starters served 2) Communicate to customers if there is an extended wait 3) Be attentive especially if customers are wanting to pay and there are people waiting outside – freeing up tables should be a priority in these kinds of situations. I wouldn’t be in a massive rush to go back but would be interested to see how this place runs away from the soft opening.
Forked by Stefpuff