Singing the Blues

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By Leila Stocker

Camden has long been a melting pot of musical influences – where rock, punk, grunge and blues sit happily side by side.

So as a blues fan myself, I was particularly excited to try out The Blues Kitchen last month, on suggestion from a friend.

Sitting proudly on a prominent corner site in the heart of Camden, the venue pays homage to the blues, bourbon and soul food of the Deep South – making it a truly soulful setting.

Singing the Blues

Packing some serious punch were the cocktails we ordered to start off. A Wibble – made up of gin, sloe gin, Chambord and pink grapefruit – helped unlock the palate. And my other half’s Old Fashioned, with its bourbon, orange peel and angostura bitters provided deep flavour and complexity in a glass, leaving us excited for the meal and music ahead.

As we waited patiently for our starters, we took a look around the venue. On entering, the bar is laid out along the left side, leaving space for casual drinkers. To the right on a raised platform are the dining booths, which feel all American with leather banquette seating and retro frames. Past the bar to the back of the venue, lies the all-important stage, where blues acts play seven nights of the week. We dined on a Sunday, which plays host to a regular Blues Jam. We were in for a treat, as the house band jammed with local musicians, open-mike style.

Blues Bar Camden, Jonathan Murray

The Blues Kitchen regularly books a refreshing roster of artists, firmly anchored to the Blues genre but without fear of programming Rock n Roll, Soul, Funk, Folk, Rockabilly and roots music. I learned the venue has hosted some world famous Blues stars such as Seasick

Steve, Gary Clark Jnr, Mud Morganfield alongside new talent such as The Strypes, The Dodge Brothers, Pete Molinari, Nick Waterhouse and Little Barrie.

Appetisers (or starters perhaps, to you and I) are undeniably moreish at The Blues Kitchen. Two example dishes when we visited were Cajun blackened shrimp and spinach, artichoke and parmesan dip, served with tortillas. Perhaps best recommended though is sharing a salad to begin. We loved the refreshing ceviche seafood salad, served with mango and papaya.

Following a tip from our bubbly waitress, we opted for a barbecue of two meats. You can choose from options such as Burnt ends (beef brisket glazed with beer & hickory BBQ sauce, slow smoked for 20 hrs) or St Louis pork ribs (melt in your mouth St Louis pork ribs slow smoked for 12 hours). All served with fries and slaw. Finger-licking good.

We also shared the burger of the month – The Big Shorty – possibly the most mouth-watering burger I have ever tasted, with 7 ounces of brisket beef, topped with pulled short beef rib, chilli cheese, rainbow slaw, picked chillies and lime mayo.

Singing the Blues

It’s a miracle if you can indeed manage a dessert, after ordering a starter and a main here. Those with sweeter teeth however won’t be disappointed with the selection. Alabama Mess, a melange of salted caramel ice cream, cookies, blueberry coulis, marshmallows and meringue, topped with pecan and bourbon cream, sounded particularly heavenly.

And the best thing about The Blues Kitchen is it’s reasonably priced for London. Starters are priced from £6.50, mains from £10.90, puddings from £6 and cocktails are all £9.50.

The Blues Kitchen also offers the most extensive collection of American whiskeys in the UK, from the finest small batch and single barrels, to the closest thing to moonshine that is legally allowed and everything in between. These include spicy ryes, sweet bourbons, smooth wheat whiskeys and straight off the pot corn whiskey. Each bottle tells a piece of the fascinating story of America and it’s whiskey since pre-prohibition time’s right up to today’s craft distilleries.

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