Groups. Family groups, friend groups, work mates looking to eat, drink and bowl. Being in a trendy part of East London, there’s a mix of locals and tourists. Surprisingly, there’s lots of people in suits too.
In A Word:
Despite visiting a number of American eateries recently, I wasn’t fully aware of the All Star Lanes franchise. Probably because I thought it was only a bowling alley and bar, but when I heard it had a restaurant as well, I was eager to check it out and discover if we’d be bowled over by the menu [Ed: lol].
Nestled between the enduring curry houses of Brick Lane and the hip/hipster eateries of Shoreditch, it’s difficult to spot at first. The exterior of All Star Lanes’ latest venture isn’t what you might call Insta-worthy. Just bricks and mortar with glass doors. A “blink and you’ll miss it” sort of thing. Maybe that’s the look they’re going for? Because the moment you step inside, it completely comes alive with music, chatter and subtle décor.
Some places tend to take the themes too literally and end up looking a bit clichéd. But not here. The soft lighting, and elegant space gives it a smart-casual look.
It has a vibrant, easy-going atmosphere (even though there were so many people in suits!) and naturally they belt out the old-fashioned American rock ‘n’ roll tunes which definitely puts you in the mood for food (specifically American food). After the staff eagerly point out what’s new on the menu, I can’t wait to try some of it.
To start, I choose something new to the All Star Lanes menu which was the Corn Chip and Spin Dip, a selection of tortilla chips with a creamy spinach and artichoke dip and Jack goes for the Chicken Quesadilla. Overall, they are both pretty impressive, well-presented and full of fresh flavours.
The Corn Chips and Spin Dip is available to share or as a starter and even though I opt for the latter, it is a big dish to get through. Jack seems to down the quesadilla in seconds and when he finishes it looks as if I still had a full plate…Nevertheless, it is a moreish starter, full of light textures, flavours and lots of colours! It does get a bit messy as the spinach is a tad stringy so it’s a challenge trying to dip the chips in… but otherwise, satisfying.
The quesadilla is surprisingly light too with a good balance of flavours, almost pizza-ery. Although you just can’t go wrong if it involves mozzarella and tomato in my view.
Frosés appear to be all the rage at the moment but All Star Lanes are hoping to impress with their very own Frozsecco. A simple blend of prosecco, strawberry pieces, sugar syrup and crushed ice. Just from its appearance, you can tell they’re going for something cool and refreshing and that’s exactly how I feel after taking a few sips.
The prosecco has quite a kick and there is just a hint of strawberry coming through – surprisingly it didn’t taste too sweet. Sometimes you hear sugar syrup and automatically assume it’ll be sickly sweet, but not in this case. Jack says it tastes a bit ‘alien’ at first, but as a cocktail fan I enjoy it. Of course, when ice melts, it does water down the flavour, so the prosecco loses its fizz. However, when in a slush puppy-state, it has a lovely taste of summer.
Onto the mains now which are served almost immediately after our starter plates were taken away. I opt for the Chargrilled dish – an impressive display of marinated chargrilled chicken tenders served with sweet potato fries, lambs lettuce and a pepper pot hot sauce. Jack samples another new item on the menu, The High Roller – a 6oz Wagyu beef burger with slaw, a lobster tail and tiger shrimp skewer. This too looks impressive, but how does it taste?
We have mixed feelings about both dishes. My Chargrilled dish has lots of interesting flavours but the chicken is very dry. The accompanying pepper hot sauce should have moistened it a little but it doesn’t. Although there was a sweetness to it, it has a more of a piercing hot sensation, which really catches you in the throat.
If you’re like me and not used to really hot flavours, the sauce won’t help. Also, the coriander diminishes the parsley and chilli flavours – so the marinade is disappointing too. There are no faults to the sweet potato fries however – these are firm, crisp and a beautiful, golden orange colour.
The High Roller is very appealing to the eye, but unfortunately, neither Jack nor I are too impressed. This is an ambitious burger. I find combining meat and fish is always a challenge and I can’t say it works here. There is too much going on. The creole mayo, as delicious as it is, overpowers the Wagyu beef. The beef is tenderly cooked and the texture is just right for medium done, but we just can’t taste much of it.
It’s a real shame because Wagyu is the most expensive varieties of beef – overshadowed by the strong fish flavours. Again, it’s an ambitious dish, but if you want to discover Wagyu, this isn’t the one to try. As the saying goes, less is more. Sides have to be ordered separately and considering the size of the burger, they are unnecessary…
Despite feeling like a freshly inflated balloon, and entirely for the benefit of you dear readers *cough, cough* I decide to go for a dessert. I normally opt for something with a citrus flavour if the main has been rich or heavy, so naturally, my eyes pop when I see Key Lime Pie Shots. Jack decides to skip desserts, settling for an Americano. (Maybe I should’ve been more assertive?)
Any feelings of disappointment lingering after the main course vanish the moment my eyes meet these two sumptuous little jars of limey delights. Topped with a teeny roasted marshmallow, these just scream ‘eat me’!
They taste even better than they look. Sometimes when you order key lime pie at a restaurant, you feel disappointed because there’s never enough lime, but that definitely isn’t the case here. The lime infused cream is refreshing and tangy, evenly balancing out the thick, vanilla whip and sweet, crunchy biscuit base. The combination dances on my tongue, beautiful. Well worth nearly falling into a food coma for!
Jack seems content with his Americano, although to me it looks more a giant espresso as there aren’t any milk substitutes (I think he was hoping for a cappuccino with almond milk or something?). I’m not sure if they don’t have any on the day we visit, or just in general – but maybe they want to consider some alternative milks for picky types like him?
Overall, All Star Lanes has a lot going for it. With its restaurant, bar and bowling alley, it offers a whole day or evening’s worth of entertainment and they are clearly trying to impress. However, in terms of food, it’s a bit hit and miss.
We were both pleased with our starters and I certainly won’t be forgetting about the Key Lime Pie Shots in a hurry, but the mains were our least favourite. It does feel they’re trying too hard in some places. However, if you want somewhere with a lively ambience, good service and a bowling match between courses, this is the place to roll down to.
95 Brick Lane, London E1 6QL, 02074269200