Friday 25 July 2014

[Review] Stax Diner Carnaby / Kingley Street, London

Stax diner is a new venture from Bea Vo, lauded baker and founder of upmarket bakery Bea's of Bloomsbury.
Ostensibly it's a diner-cum-soul food joint, located upstairs in the relatively newly renovated Kingly Market, between Carnaby Street and Kingly street, and the space is quite fun.

Window bars, canteen tables, and an open kitchen define the space, but it's a small space, and oddly the kitchen fridge is in the dining room. There's some serious space maximisation going on.
It's a small space - that's the entirety of the kitchen!

I was obviously there to hit up the burger, so with dining partner in crime ordered the bacon cheeseburger accessorised with sides of Cajun onion bloom, battered pickles and skin on fries.


Bacon burger - £8.95

I'm going to say this up front. The burger needs work.


The diner-style presentation (inna basket with branded, greaseproof paper) fits well with the decor and space, but the actual burger falls short, in my view, of excitement. The proportions seem wrong, it's too small for the basket, and the burger patty is out of proportion with the bun - skewed to one side, exposing a swathe of bare bun bottom.


The bacon is slightly unexpected. It's beef bacon. This means it's a sort of cured maple beef jerky, packing a great sweet/savoury punch - but the nature of cured beef makes it inherently chewy, coupled with some almost unchewable lumps.Thin sliced pickles have a good tang and work with the cheese, but the lettuce and slice of watery tomato don't add anything - and it comes unsauced so without ketchup and mustard (although adequately provided on tables) it's dry, too.


The beef in the patty is some of the most loosely packed I've eaten in London, almost like it's been scooped out of a tub and slapped straight on the grill with a minimum of hand working or forming. The result is a load of mince in a roll, rather than a discernible burger, and although there is some great caramelisation on the outside, even the soft soft bun can't hold it all in place. The taste is good, however, and the melted American cheese pours into every crack and crevice. All that said, I'd have liked more seasoning.


I really liked the super- soft full brioche bun (from Balthazar bakery) which squished and wrapped brilliantly around the burger, but inside it starts to get patchy.


Onion bloom is novel - battered with Cajun spices - one shared between two gives me my week's quota of onion. Skin on double cooked fries with Cajun spices are really good, but the battered pickles were poor. Again using Cajun batter, the thick quarter-spear pickles are too fat and on picking them up the batter peels and cracks leaving you with a slimy red hot pickle and a pot full of crumbled batter - I think the pickles need to be thin sliced to maximise the batter surface area and prevent slippage.

Overall Rating: 6/10

This burger experience is a bit of a mixed bag. I love the space and the onion bloom is innovative. It could be a really great burger - the caramelised crust on the burger is phenomenal, and the bun is excellent, but mine was overcooked, underseasoned, and out of proportion. I have friends who rave about the crawfish boil and I'll be back to try that out at some point, but until I hear the burger has been upgraded, I can' recommend it.

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  1. Martin Dunne25 July, 2014

    The onion isn't original. I have had that many times in the American South ( Tennessee ) why it's called a blooming onion. Never seen it here though. That burger looked a mess. I could see it was going to be bad before the review just from the photos. Maybe we are going to get more sub-par burgers as people jump in to be trendy?

  2. Ripsnorter25 July, 2014

    I agree with you about a burger bandwagon going on but this place strikes me as a work-in-progress that just needs some easy fixing of teething problems: it is new, after all, and there is still enough here to colour me interested. If you have not yet tried Patty & Bun, that is a strong recommend (Ari Gold burger with bacon) but avoid the coleslaw (too acidic) and the Beavertown Ale just (nasty and well over priced). Service was top.

  3. Not original, but I haven't seen it before in London - you have to eat it sparingly!

  4. Yes, I agree, it may be early days and if I hear it improves, I'll be back.

  5. Ripsnorter30 July, 2014

    Good to hear from you Hamburger Me guy. More reviews, please (You don't really need that day job!).


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