NYE @ Honky Tonk, Chelsea

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Call me weird, but I would honestly say that reading restaurant menus (and reviews, naturally) online is one of my very favourite activities. So when we were establishing our plan for New Year’s Eve 2012, I seized upon the task of finding a restaurant with great enthusiasm. We were going to be staying at the Hilton in Kensington, so we focused our efforts on the West, and eventually settled on Honky Tonk in Chelsea.

The restaurant’s website was surprisingly unforthcoming with regards to its NYE menu (actually there was no mention of one at all), so a few days previous, I sent an email asking for details of pricing, what exactly the menu consisted of, and so on. I didn’t get a reply and so, having found another website that said Honky Tonk would be providing a Β£25 set menu, we resolved to go anyway and just see what we got. Then, on the day itself, I received a call from a lovely man called Tom who was happy to answer my questions and read out a number of dishes from the menu – which, it transpired, was Β£30 a head, which seemed good value. The phone call was a nice touch, but it would have been even nicer had I received it less than six hours before our reservation.

Our booking was for 6PM – early, but we had other plans to be getting on with for later in the evening. The fourth member of our party, Ivan, was coming more or less straight from Heathrow and had delays with the Heathrow Express, so it was just three of us at first, and we arrived to a completely empty restaurant. We ordered cocktails at the bar: a Dark and Stormy for me, and the two variations of The Shrub (gin & berry, and rum & pineapple) for Lottie and Sophie.

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All of them were good combinations, and strong. Lottie and Sophie’s were served in jam jars, which we enjoyed, and I preferred the gin and berry version of The Shrub to the pineapple, but altogether my favourite was my own choice, which involved lime, rum, and ginger beer. The barman said it’s amongst the most popular, and I can see why.

Eventually Ivan arrived and, after an exciting reunion, we took our table. The set menu was pretty extensive, with six or seven options for main courses and four for dessert. The starters were served as ‘sharing plates,’ with either a meat or vegetarian version, so we got two between the four of us. It consisted of chicken wings, pork ribs, some sort of fishcake, chicken quesadillas, and potato skins stuffed with chili and cheese. Between two it was a good amount of food and everything tasted good.

Next up was beefs ribs, for Sophie and I, a vegetarian burger for Lottie, and a cheeseburger for Ivan. The portions were huge, almost real-American sized, and the ribs themselves were hugeΒ with enough meat on them to warrant using cutlery, rather than our hands (which disgusted our American tablemate). They came with fries and an apple slaw, both of which were good and neither of which I could finish having polished off the mammoth ribs.

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For dessert, we’d all ordered the Honey and Bourbon S’mores. Having the whole table (or even just two people) make the same order is a pet peeve of mine and I avoid it if at all possible, but all the other desserts (brownie, cheesecake, or an ice cream sundae, I believe) seemed too heavy given the festivities we had planned for later, and besides, we are all fans of S’mores.

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These, though, were a distinct disappointment. I liked the way that the biscuits were dipped in chocolate, especially the white, but the biscuits themselves were really hard, like they’d been kept in the fridge, and although the marshmallows were a little charred on the outside, they didn’t taste at all toasted and weren’t melty at all. In the end I deconstructed the thing and ate the biscuit by itself, and I left the second one altogether. The honey-bourbon sauce that was drizzled over the plate was nice, though.

I should also add that both the restaurant and bar area filled up to create that all-important buzzy atmosphere, so that was nice.Β What with the cocktails, the bottle of wine we ordered for the table (which was very nice and reasonably priced at Β£19.95) and service, it came to Β£50 a head. Not bad at all for New Year’s Eve, and the food was in general very good, although the dessert did mean that we were left on a low note.

I would have loved to stay and sample more of the cocktails, but we had bigger plans – namely, a night at Kona KaiΒ to see in the New Year. Now this is a place I definitely want to go back to on a normal night. Good crowd, good drinks, and a DJ who played Gangnam Style as the first song of the New Year – it’s my kind of place!

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