Kingly Court is easily one of my favourite spots in London. It’s quite a foodie heaven there, with a number of restaurants of various cuisines spanning across its three-storey infrastructure and features a dynamic and dazzling courtyard. One of the popular food places is Stax Diner, a bustling and halal-friendly American diner situated on the first floor of the building.
Stax Diner is founded by acclaimed chef Bea Vo, who is also the owner of London’s Bea’s of Bloomsbury and Malty Street Diner. The diner offers classic American soul food dishes and aims to introduce the American Deep South into London. It is not a very big and spacious place, but it definitely has an extremely upbeat and bustling atmosphere plus a hint of funkiness. Tables are placed fairly close to one another and it is quite a compact setting. If you’re looking for a comfortable sit-down meal, you might want to consider somewhere else.
The diner follows an eccentric style of decor and setting. To mention a few, you’ll find Memphis Stax record labels and posters around the restaurant, a vintage popcorn machine, a drum set hanging bizarrely from the ceiling, rough table surface, etc. Their menu is designed into the shape of a paper fan as well. Everything just looked fun around the restaurant, only if it’s not so crowded.
The menu offers typical southern American soul food dishes, from burgers and fried chickens to pancakes and waffles and milkshakes – all aiming to, as the diner’s slogan says, ‘feed your soul‘. The concept of the menu comes from a collage of Bea’s childhood memories on great road trips through the American South. Each dish probably has a little story behind, and with the addition of long-held secret family sauces and sides recipes, Bea has brought her beautiful childhood memories back to life and shared them with us via food.
Here is what we had:
Stax Burger (£12.5)
The Stax Burger is basically a 28-day dry-aged pedigreed Sussex beef patty on Balthazar brioche with grilled onion, tomato, lettuce, and mayo. The burger smelled really good, exactly the alluring aroma that filled the entire diner. I ordered the burger to be cooked medium, and it was cooked just how I wanted it. The beef patty was fairly aromatic and juicy, though could add an extra pinch of seasoning to it to elevate the beefy flavours. I totally adored the brioche buns, which were soft and buttery without being too richly sweet and most importantly not soggy against the sauces and juices of the burger.
Cajun Onion Blossom (no longer on the menu)
There was this ‘must-have’ section on the menu and it listed this one and only item, the Cajun Onion Blossom. It is basically an onion being sliced up and fallen into the shape of a flower – think of each slice of onion like a petal – then battered up and deep-fried. It was served with a side of garlic dipping sauce.
This is literally a mini version of the Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion dish that I had back home in Hong Kong, which was absolutely my favourite there. Yes, it may be fattening but it’s simply irresistible! How did Stax Diner do in comparison? Well, it might not have been as outstanding as I would’ve expected. Firstly, I thought it tasted fairly bland. While the frying batter was spiked with cajun spices, the flavours did not seem to get into the onions. The frying batter didn’t really gel well with the onions either and they kept falling apart as we tried to tackle the dish.
Fried Chicken & Waffles (£13)
Since this is a Southern American diner, we ought to try some southern fried chicken. In order to get the utmost classic American soul food experience, Chicken and Waffles is undoubtedly the best representative. It may be an odd combo to many, but it’s the ultimate soul food to die for.
Whilst typically served with large fried chicken pieces, Stax Diner went with Buttermilk fried chicken strips, having them served over hot fluffy buttermilk waffles and maple syrup. Personally, I find the chicken a tad bit dry and overcooked. The batter did not come as crispy as I expected either. Sadly, the waffle was not particularly impressive either. It’s got the sweet & eggy flavour but the texture just lacked that crisp on the outside, nor is it fluffy on the inside. It was in overall an okay dish but I’ve got to admit that I was left feeling underwhelmed by it.
Cajun Fries (£4.25)
The Cajun Fries were beautifully seasoned. The fries were not oily and were fried to a beautiful crisp. The Cajun seasoning added a kick of spice and flavour which kept us munching non-stop.
The Stax Diner Secret Menu Burger (£25)
You may not see this straightforward on the menu, but if you pay attention to your surroundings, there is actually a Secret Menu Burger. How do you get access to the Secret Menu? Well, we were told we needed to dance for it in order to know about the secret dish. Did we dance or not…now that’s a secret for you to guess haha.
So here’s the reveal: the Stax Diner Secret Menu is a waffle burger stack consisting of beef, then chicken, and then beef again. Whilst I didn’t enjoy the waffle as much for the Chicken & Waffles, this waffle was actually pretty nice. It’s got the nice crisp on the outside and the warm fluffy texture on the inside. The beef patty was nice, featuring a juicy medium-rare beef, and was topped with cheese and onion relish. It was really nice. However, the chicken didn’t really seem to match up. It was a bit underwhelming, relatively dry and lacked crispiness on the coating.
Last but not least, desserts. We went with the Dough-Bro, which is deep-fried brownie served with vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce. The idea of a deep-fried brownie initially sounded quite flabbergasting, but I’m ultimately curious about it.
Basically the brownie was coated with batter and fried to a golden brown colour. The batter had a cake-y and doughnut-y texture to it, and it wrapped up the brownie evenly into a ball shape. The brownie was absolutely delicious with its richness and gooey-ness. With the compliment of the vanilla ice cream, it created a euphoric hot-and-cold sensation to our taste buds. It was undoubtedly one guilty pleasure.
…I enjoyed the energetic and fun vibe of Stax Diner but the food did feel lacking that special ‘oomph’. The food was definitely not bad but there is room for improvement to strive for more outstanding flavours. Ultimately, some dishes had been a hit and miss. It’s got a lot of potentials though so hopefully, we will see improvements next time!
Nearest station: Oxford Circus