I’d like to preface this post by saying that I am aware that Hawaii is not a country. In high school, my best friend was adamant that Chicago (also not a country) was a state, and refused to be told otherwise. We made fun of her for years – this is not going to be one of those cases. I can’t count very well and sometimes at work I have to sing the alphabet song to myself (under my breath) but when it comes to geography, I’m pretty ace. Not only do I know where Hawaii is, I’ve even been there – if you count the Honolulu airport, that is. The little lady signs on the bathroom doors all wear cute little hula skirts.
In 2008, Barack Obama was pictured ordering 24 burgers and 20 portions of fries for his staff at Kua ‘Aina in Honolulu. (I’m willing to admit that I read this in the Daily Mail. We all fall down sometimes.) It’s a well known fact that the man likes a good burger – and who can blame him?
Now, Obama has also been snapped making a lunchtime pit stop at Five Guys in Washington, but after reading this review of the fast food chain’s new London outpost, I wasn’t so inclined – with “posh meat” joints cropping up left and right, it takes more than a long queue to make your mark.
I myself haven’t been feeling very presidential of late – for anyone who may (or may not) have noticed my conspicuous absence from the blogosphere over the last few months, this is because I got engaged in May, and have a wedding to plan. Now don’t get me wrong, this is fantastic news, and I’m over the moon and can’t wait to be married – but I bet you the Obamas had a wedding planner! No one told me how many moving parts a wedding has, and sometimes it feels like I have a second job. In a good way, obviously, but sometimes cocktails are needed.
So, with a giant pitcher of Blue Hawaiian top of mind, Duncan and I headed to Kua ‘Aina‘s newest outlet, tucked away just off Carnaby Street in Soho. I was pretty pumped – who doesn’t want three pints of sickly sweet alcohol on a Tuesday night? Also, I used to love that movie Blue Crush. What is Kate Bosworth up to these days, anyway?
We expected a wait, but were lucky to snag a table downstairs right away. Our friendly (non Hawaiian) waitress presented us with our menus slash placemats, and asked if she could take our order. Being the slow decision maker that I am, I asked for a few minutes, knowing that really, I don’t eat burgers, and mostly wanted to get my hands on that big blue drink.
The couple next to us ordered the big Blue Hawaiian – we’ll have that too, I informed the waitress. But alas, after she scoured the kitchen and the cavernous bench under my bottom for more liquor, it turns out that THERE WAS NO MORE MALIBU RUM. You know, I didn’t even know there was Malibu rum in a Blue Hawaiian. I didn’t care. I just wanted the blue. Instead, I had to settle for a Hawaiian craft beer, which, when we received the bill, turned out to be Asahi. Middle class problems, right?
But Kua ‘Aina’s menu is unpretentious, and its atmosphere as laid-back as a Jack Johnson tune. During the years that I spent employed as a professional beach bum, I passed many an early afternoon hour rehydrating (sometimes dehydrating) at beach cafes and bars, and this could have been any one of them.
We passed on the light pupu (Hawaiian for appetiser) and skipped right to the main event – for Duncan, a half pound, lava-grilled beef burger topped with avocado and bacon and served on a golden bun. For me – a teriyaki chicken sandwich on rye with grilled pineapple. To my absolute delight, the menu suggested I “add more sun” in the shape of a slice of Monterey Jack cheese – which up until now I did not even realise existed in England. The Internet suggests I use gouda as a substitute in recipes where Monterey Jack is called for – doesn’t even come close.
Accompanied by an order of crispy sweet potato fries, our food went down a treat. Duncan’s burger was juicy and enormous, and my sandwich totally hit the spot. The ingredients used seem top quality – fresh, well-seasoned and plentiful – except, of course, for the rum, which they’d ran out of at 7 p.m. on a school night.
The verdict – maybe not a top pick for date night, but a fantastic spot for a quick bite after work or shopping in Central London. Would I go back? Absolutely, if only for the Monterey Jack cheese.
Need to know:
26 Foubert’s Place
0207 287 74 74
Nearest Tube: Oxford Circus