Back in 2013, celebrity chef and all-around chummy guy, Jamie Oliver, set up a diner concept in Piccadilly Circus – three years later (and last time I looked), it’s still going strong and being enjoyed mostly by the heaving tourist crowds of London.
The diner was meant to be ‘for a limited time,’ but perhaps the heaps of money that a celebrity chef’s name can pull in from a tourist location like Piccadilly Circus encouraged Oliver to reconsider. Jamie’s Diner is a marked departure from his other London restaurants like Jamie’s Italian or Barbecoa.
The Diner consists of an upstairs restaurant and then a pop-up lunch-counter style shop at street level. Upstairs, the diner seems to cater to children and their tired, exasperated parents who have dragged them around London all day. Dinosaurs are the random decoration of choice provided by designer Jay Jay Burridge. Chosen, I guess, to appease the hyperactive children as much as alleviate the pressure on the parents.
The quick-order counter serves up a limited repertoire of the menu offered upstairs. Patrons sit on stools or at park-style tables to eat their burgers and hot dogs while the buzz of Piccadilly Circus surrounds them. You can choose from burgers, a couple types of hot dog, or buffalo-style “sticky chicken wings” along with a handful of sides and desserts.
I suppose the street-level takeaway counter was meant to be the pop-up part and so it was this part that I sampled in my burger-quest. This little lunch counter is named the ‘Dog House’ probably because of the hot dogs that they serve up to the hungry tourist masses, but the burger wasn’t a slouch for the money!
The overriding flavor that you get is a peppery kind of beef – similar to that of Meat Market in many ways. A naked hamburger starts at a very reasonable £4.75, with the cheese and double cheese coming in at £5.25 and £6.75 respectively. Adding bacon or fried onions will be another £1 on top. All things considered, this is slightly less than typical London prices, but you’re eating on picnic style seats, so perhaps that’s why.
The burger is served simply in a takeaway-style paper box. Everything here is built to travel, even if you choose to grab a seat. As you can see, I went for the double cheeseburger topped with fried onions. It came with some cole slaw topping, tomato and pickles. The bun is a…dare I say, hot cross bun? I crack myself up… it’s good though, a lightly grilled, soft bun that does a good job because overall the burger and onions were greasy.
The beef was middle-of-the-road, flavorful mostly for the peppery way in which it was prepared. The onions were more fried than caramelized, and super oily. Still, for the money it was a very nice burger and the location means it’s right on the beaten path for hungry tourist mouths.
For Londoners, I think you can do better with a wealth of joints tucked into the alleys and side-streets that only a local would know about. You’re not far from many other places I’ve mentioned in this blog like GBK or Byron. But if you like a picnic-style meal in the hubbub of Piccadilly, then Jamie’s is quite alright.
You find Jamie Oliver’s diners at 21 Shaftesbury Ave, London W1D 7EF or visit their website here.
Jamie Oliver’s Pop-up Diner Burger – 36/50
Beef (6): overly seasoned and grilled well-past medium, I would have liked to input on the level of doneness, but oh well!
Bun (9): does a good job and is light. Jamie’s take on a brioche, which comes out, well like you’d expect a British brioche to be
Toppings (5): could have been nice, but the onions were drowned in the oil that “caramelized” them, and therefore just were soggy and blech.
Value (8): Comes in slightly under burger places that I’d rank in the same category.
Ambiance (8): Depends on what you like. The nonstop buzz of Piccadilly is great if you’re looking out in awe of the masses of double-decker busses and various peoples passing by. Don’t go if you want peace and quiet!