Ask any reasonable group of individuals what they regard to be London’s best halal burger, and more likely than not, the situation will erupt into a heated debate that can only be defused through the medium of armed intervention. It’s certainly no surprise, given that London now has more halal gourmet burgers than it does hipsters or people who chase imaginary pokemon, and as such, opinions are both numerous and divided. Whilst, in this sea of conflicting views, it can be difficult to find common ground, there is no denying that there remains a handful of gourmet giants who continue to dominate the halal burger scene, and chief amongst them, is Stax Diner.
Such is the magnitude of their reputation, that when Stax announced the imminent arrival of Boondocks – a new sister restaurant in the midst of Old Street, little else was needed in the way of publicity. As the excitement grew rife, the birth of Boondocks finally materialised last weekend, and Steak and I met up with fellow bloggers A and Z from My Big Fat Halal Blog to join the stampede of hungry food enthusiasts at the highly-anticipated soft launch.
- All the meat served here is certified halal. Alcohol is served on the premises.
- This review is based on a soft-launch visit, and as such, certain scores are unlikely to be reflective of the restaurant’s true potential.
- This review is of the Boondocks main menu. To read about the brunch menu, click here.
After missing out on the first round of tables, the four of us sat in the “bar area” and chatted away in blissful ignorance. The minutes turned to hours, until finally, we decided to order a round of milkshakes, only to be told that Boondocks will not be able to serve milkshakes for another two weeks. Our hearts sank, our cardiologists rejoiced, and we glumly ordered some virgin mojitos instead. Steak and I opted for a peach and mango mojito respectively, and both were dominated by the rich sweetness of their respective syrups. They were satisfying mojitos by all accounts, but both of them desperately needed a sharp and sour punch to cut through the sugar-filled mix.
Left to right: Mango Mojito, Regular Mojito, and a Peach Mojito
With our blood glucose stabilised, we finally received a table and ordered without hesitation. The menu at Boondocks brings a number of new additions to the Stax armamentarium, including a range of new burger formulas, intriguing desserts, and an entire selection of “Southern specialties”. In traditional “Teeth-style”, I succumbed to the largest item on the menu, and ordered the dually-wielded “BBQ monster”, composed of a beef patty, a fried chicken steak, and a dollop of BBQ sauce. Whilst the pairing of beef and chicken sounds more like a “monstrosity” than a “monster”, the combination actually worked quite well. True to Stax form, my medium-rare beef patty was soft and succulent, and its crumbly texture provided a pleasant contrast against the crispy coat of the chicken steak. Both packed a fair amount of inherent flavour, which paired well with my choice of stilton cheese, whilst the BBQ sauce provided a sufficient amount of sweetness – without overpowering the other components.
The BBQ Monster
Steak and Z decided to play it safe* (*boring 😉), and ordered a pair of “Bring Home The Bacon” burgers. Whilst the formula is identical to that found at Stax, the cooking was slightly off on this occasion, no doubt due to the stress and the rush of the soft launch. The patty had lost some of its moisture, and the beef bacon was slightly overcooked, but the flavours were perfect – even if the textures were not.
“Bring Home The Bacon”
Meanwhile, A ran in the opposite direction and dived straight into No Man’s Land with the “Sloppy Joe”. Consisting of a mushy mix of ground beef and tomato sauce, British versions of this American cult-classic are rarely found in the UK, whilst halal versions are almost non-existent. Though it was as tasty as it was messy, we didn’t think it had anything particularly noteworthy to offer – other than a sense of novelty.
In our starvation, Z and I had also ordered a large portion of BBQ chicken wings, which sadly, failed to impress. The wings themselves were scrawny and under-seasoned, whilst the slather of BBQ sauce failed to provide anything more than a moist coat and an excessive sweetness. The accompanying chipotle sauce however, was a musky delight.
BBQ wings with chipotle sauce
As for Steak and A, they insisted on a bowl of nachos as their choice of extras, and the soft yet crispy tortilla pieces worked in tandem with the generous helping of avocado and sour cream. However, as a whole, we felt it needed a sharper, spicier kick to cut through the otherwise mellow flavours.
As our bellies began to bulge, we decided to further hamper the likelihood of being able to walk home by ordering two rounds of dessert. First up were Boondock’s DIY s’mores, complete with halal marshmallows, chocolate coins, grahams crackers and a mini-stove. After resisting the urge to skewer everyone’s hands to the table and make off with the entire set, I proceeded to join my companions in the ensuing carnage. We charred our marshmallows, burnt the underlying paper and thanks to “Hurricane Steak”, nearly set fire to poor A and Z with a gust of exhaled air, but in the end, we enjoyed a deliciously gooey and crispy set of smores – and had a damn lot of fun in the process!
Needless to say, we kindly asked for the stove to be removed before moving on to our final item of the night – the legendary duffin sundae. One can only assume that this doughnut-muffin hybrid had a serious disagreement with the Dairy-Mafia, as it came buried alive in a mountain of ice cream, whipped cream and butterscotch. Firm, sweet and rich, the duffin contrasted brilliantly with the soft and airy cream, leaving little room for orderly etiquette. I would however, have liked a higher proportion of ice cream to whipped cream in order to thicken the mix, (and perhaps a larger bowl!).
Value For Money: 3.5/5
The original price of my BBQ monster was £13.50, but unfortunately, I forgot to note the prices of the other items that we ordered that day. The pricing at Boondocks is otherwise identical to Stax, with burgers ranging from £8-£13, (with an extra £3/£6 surcharge for double/triple patties), sides ranging from £2-£4, and drinks and milkshakes ranging from £3-£5. Desserts meanwhile, range from £3-£5.
As one can expect at any soft launch, service was slow and somewhat slapdash. However, staff members were friendly and helpful, and it was clear that they were trying to do their best. No doubt, things will become far more efficient and far less manic as Boondocks begins to settle in.
As many a Stax-enthusiast will know, the Kingly Court diner offers very little in the way of comfort and expanse. More often than not, fitting into a seat at Stax invokes the need to inhale sharply and break one’s kneecaps – and even then, you need to avoid playing footsie with the patrons sitting at the opposite end of the restaurant. Such problems are all but non-existent at Boondocks. Spanning two lovingly-decorated floors, Boondocks boasts a luxurious amount of space that could make its elder sibling turn green with envy. Take a stroll, swing your arms, or break into acrobatic ballet, and there’ll still be plenty of room for your fellow diners to enjoy their meal in peace. (Before you ask, I haven’t put the ballet theory to the test. Yet…).
Boondocks can be found a short walk away from Old Street station, which should take you no more than 10 minutes.
The spacious surroundings and fairytale light-fixtures ensure that Boondocks harbours an open and care-free dining environment. It certainly feels a lot calmer than Stax, and amongst the bustle and the buzz, the four of us had a great time and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company.
Whether its a film, a book, or a restaurant, the purpose of any sequel is to build upon the success of its predecessor, and ideally, take the entire franchise to new heights. With an exciting new menu and a comfortable and attractive setting, Boondocks does just that, and delivers a fair amount of justice to the reputation of its elder sibling. Of course, there is much fine-tuning to be done before it reaches the same level of consistency as Stax (and as such, we’d recommend waiting a month or two before visiting), but for now, Boondocks has made great headway into the turbulent waves of London’s gourmet burger scene. Stay tuned for updated reviews, and let us know what you think of Bea Vo’s latest venture.
Address: 205 City Road, London EC1V 1JT