Last year I decided to go travelling around a bit and see what the rest of the world had to offer… turns out that the answer to that is ‘an awful bloody lot’. One of the best things (apart from the sea, sunshine, people, excitement and general atmosphere of tomfoolery) was getting to eat some mind-blowing Asian and South American cuisine. The first time I ate razor clams fresh from the sea and lightly grilled with garlic, I fell into the water. I’m going to say that this had nothing to do with the ten or so cocktails I’d sampled before, and everything to do with the sublime taste.
The last place on my hit list was going to be America, the biggest draw being the food. Don’t get me wrong; they’ve got some cracking films, beautiful scenery and great people, but the food looks good enough to make me swim over various seas to get a bite. I didn’t get to go to America in the end (it was mainly a problem with me needing money and realising I’d spent it all, but that’s not the point). The point is GIVE ME THE FOOD! With this anger at the lack of American cuisine in my life, I literally ran over to The Joker on Preston Circus to sample what I’d heard was a very delicious offering of American goodness.
The Joker is what every hip but not-trying-too-hard pub should be. There are very cool things adorning the walls, such as an awesome blue-lit skull and a television that was showing trippy but pleasing imagery. The walls are dark and daring, the wooden floorboards completing the feeling that you are in a chilled but curious place. My wandering eye was immediately struck however by ‘The Joker Express’ – a replica of a train carriage complete with old suitcases in the overhead storage and a glass sliding door – that looks like it has been plucked straight from an Agatha Christie novel. Wandering in and sitting on the comfy red leather ‘carriage seats’, we perused the American-inspired fare and chose our drinks. I opted for a large Alta Vista Malbec (£6.90), which was a big whack of plummy, fruity gorgeousness and dangerously easy to drink.
Food-wise, we went for the award-winning Buffalo wings, which are a very reasonable £7 for 8. You can choose two different sauces, so being wimps we went for the BBQ and the Original flavour. For the more adventurous, they go all the way to the super hot ‘Viper’, made with Naga chillies and chilli extract. We also chose The Buffalo Reuben Sandwich (£8) – a mound of salt beef, melted Swiss cheese and sauerkraut slathered in blue cheese dressing and their signature sauce. To round off this feast we picked steak cut chips (£3) and homemade slaw (£2.50) as sides. The Reuben was everything you want in a sandwich – the high quality beef was so plentiful that it spilled out the sides, and the perfect amount of sauerkraut and cheese added a richness and sharpness to the juicy star of the show. The chips were wonderfully golden and crunchy, served with more blue cheese, this time in a heavenly dip that I found myself scooping at constantly. The coleslaw, (something that I find gets messed around with far too often), was fresh, crisp and without the over-indulging of mayonnaise that so often ruins it. It’s hard to mention the wings without producing a strange faraway little smile and remembering their sheer, messy appeal. So often they get rushed out and end up flabby and uninspiring, however these were a thing of beauty. Dripping in ridiculously flavoursome sauce with a slightly crunchy skin, this tasty exterior complemented the succulence of the chicken perfectly.
We finished in true American style by adding even more food in the form of the Homemade Pecan Pie served with Brighton’s ‘Boho Gelato’ brown bread ice cream (£5). The pie was sweet and silky with the pecans adding just the right amount of texture. Some genius in the kitchen had decided to couple this with a milky, unctuous ice cream, which worked excellently.
The Joker delivered the perfect American food experience with a menu fit for that US insatiable appetite, complete with the need to unbutton my jeans after. But when food tastes this good then ‘frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn’.
Words by Lucy Hallett