Review: Dirty Bones, Kensington
Spin the wheel on the Trendy Restaurant Name Generator 2010 and Dirty Bones is exactly the sort of result you’d expect to get. ‘Dirty food’ may be one of life’s great pleasures, but if you’re a (relatively) objective observer, you’ll know that the whole thing is at saturation point. Not all new and newish restaurants trying to capitalise on the trend do it that well – or even remotely well, for that matter – so when I wobbled down the sultry, neon lit stairs of Dirty Bones on Kensington Church, it was with a healthy amount of scepticism.
And I absolutely hated the place at first glance. The vibe was an aggressively try-hard attempt to transplant a slice of Shoreditch into wealthy west London (even the sodding Dirty Bones website looks like it was thrown together after a weekend course at the MEATliquor School of Web Design), with service generally friendly but bungling when it came to efficiency. Give me a brusque French waiter who hurries me to my table making it clear they’re dying inside any day.
What a shame then that this ill mannered rant has to end with the poser-y ambiance and amateur service at Dirty Bones. Because when it came down to it, what ended up straining the arteries and exercising the liver at Dirty Bones was actually really rather good.
House smoked pickles wafted of wow and nodded to the chef’s history at the Fat Duck experimental kitchen, while cocktails were pretty damn exceptional across the board. Apologies for the shit photos – part and parcel with trendy basement restaurants appears to be crap lighting, which no amount of (remedial) Photoshopping could counteract.
Moving towards the business end of things, ribs could have had a tad more bite but were tender, meaty and exactly what you want after 18 holes of boozing near Slough.
House wings were similarly fleshy with a big citrus smack. Vaguely Thai in their overall flavour, the only real complaint was that they needed some chilli bite. Still, they’re a new Wingin’ It favourite and you can read my full review of Dirty Bones’ wings here.
The main event at Dirty Bones is driven by dogs, which were universally excellent. There’s a fair bit of invention gone into these, with less than predictable offerings like the Asian dog (featuring kimchi purée, wasabi mayo and crispy seaweed) sitting alongside a confident Classic Yankee, served simply with mustard, ketchup and onions. The dogs themselves were very high quality wieners indeed, every bit the equal of the Big Apple Hot Dogs that set the standard back in the day.
But the master stroke (for me at least) was the burger dog – a politely uncooked patty sliced in half and shoved into one of the delicious brioche buns. Adorned with nothing more than ketchup, mustard and ‘beer cheese’, it tasted like a pimped version of the cheeseburger subs I used to snog as a kid back in Beantown. Which is a good thing, let me assure you.
Side were less impressive on the whole. Mac and cheese was a pretty misery portion and generally unremarkable, while ‘dirty’ fries were tasty enough but would have benefitted from extended internment in the fryer.
I’m probably being a bit critical, because I genuinely enjoyed the food at Dirty Bones and only some of the pricing really ticked me off. Yes, this is Kensington, where a biro costs a fiver, but £5.50 for a small (330ml) can of craft lager is fucking excessive. Bryon dishes up tasty tins of brew for well under the £5 mark, and I know from buying cans at places like Borough Market’s (pricey) Utobeer that they usually retail for between £3-3.50, with an obvious markup already in place.
Everything else was on the steeper side of acceptable, but that left me with a slightly sour taste in my mouth. What lingers most though is the good grub. While pretension and artifice aren’t easily overcome, Dirty Bones is a rare case where it can become an afterthought, if you let it. Ultimately, good food shines brighter than any generic neon sign nabbed off eBay and, as you can tell by the appalling state of the menu, this group of lads had a pretty good time.