60HAYMARKET, SW1Y 4QX
Tel: 020 7437 7639
Cost per person without wine: £20
WHEN I think of Planet Hollywood, I think of family-themed nights – sticky floors, screaming babies, hassled staff. But London’s new PH, a revamped affair just down the road from the old one, is trying to go for a different demographic. “Our target market is 18-35,” says the manager. “We’re trying to go for something different. Have you tried our cocktails yet?”
I do try one, at £6.50, and a couple more. They are cheap and tasty, particularly the pear and apple and espresso martinis. All the same, it’s an odd place to knock back cocktails. Although we were there on Friday night, quite late, there were lots of prams and young children scuttling about. One little girl was merrily dancing on a banquette to the Dizzee Rascal tune coming from one of the many TV screens in the place, which flipped between chart toppers and Toy Story. After drinks we headed back, past the PH shop, to an enormous banquette table laid for two.
Now, I have a confession to make. I love this kind of food: a conglomeration of Tex Mex, all-American, BBQ basic (hold the prawn and melon skewers, please) and even Chinese. Back where I’m from in the States, you can’t keep me away from Dunkin’ Donuts and its cheap and squooshy, oh-so-simple, delights. I love a good piece of fried food, and I love a good hunk of over-processed carbohydrate.
So I was happy from the start. Settled with a really quite reasonable glass of pinot grigio, I began with my half of the shared appetiser platter. There were some unidentified fried objects involving hard-fried shells, bacon and cheese – I think they were called Texas Tostados and were delicious – fried chicken fingers, which were not as good as promised on the menu, spicy chicken wings and blackened shrimp, enormous things that tasted of carbon and little else.
SURF ‘N’ TURF
On to the main event – though by now we were already pretty full. Deliberating between the likes of surf ‘n’ turf, a great big hunk of sirloin with several large even-blacker shrimps, enormous salads called things like Hollywood Bowl with a “pinwheel” of turkey, bacon, avocado, Gruyere and more, or the Turkey Avocado Tower. There’s every comfort food known to (American) man on this list – from pepperoni pizza, to crispy lemon chicken. In the end I went for the fajitas with chicken, which brought me back to my youth in Boston. Fajitas are a brainwave – do-it-yourself parcels of squelching, flavourful heaven. I only managed two wraps filled with sizzling chicken, peppers, sour cream, guacamole and “jack” cheese. I really wish I could have kept going. My companion’s steak – he went for surf ‘n’ turf – was on the money and enormous, but the shrimps were actually inedible, tasting of chemical-soaked sponges.
We made room for dessert. Strawberry cheesecake and a piece of carrot cake the size of my head with a lemon frosting ensured we could barely sleep that night, our bodies pulsating with all that meat and sugar and fat. But I don’t regret it – I can’t remember the last time I had a proper all-American meal. This one had the size and composition to make me quite nostalgic. It also had the super-cheery, pleasant and efficient staff of great American diners. Bested, we sat in a stupor watching Rihanna, Justin Timberlake and Madonna on the nearest TV screen. Too much of this all-American style of eating could be dangerous. Once in a while, it’s great.
In a nutshell:
Crass, efficient purveyor of American comfort food in large quantities and at reasonable prices. The crowd is school groups, families and teenagers. Keep your eyes fixed on the nearest screen, and drink firmly in your hand, and you’ll be fine. Quite possibly even more than fine.