Westfield has never been a dining destination. Yet with Christmas lurking just around the corner, the annual boom of popularity surrounding the nation’s shopping centres is also looming. As a result, many shopping centre restaurants will also become equitable suggestions for lunch or dinner to fuel/follow a mammoth shopping trip.
In a relatively quiet corner of Westfield Stratford City, All Star Lanes joins restaurants such as Shake Shack, Five Guys and TGI Friday’s, also championing their own interpretation of American food. All Star Lanes wins extra points in terms of appeal for the 14 bowling lanes that stretch across the back of the venue: ultimately contributing to a fun overall experience.
Moreover, the restaurant will launch a brand new Christmas menu this week, available for Christmas parties and as part of the a la carte menu. A Christmas Dinner Burger comprises turkey with a ‘Southern-style’ coating, sage and onion patty, lettuce, ‘baconnaise’, red onion and cranberry relish, topped with a pig in blanket. The Pigs in Blankets hot dog includes a bacon-wrapped Cumberland sausage with red onion and cranberry relish, plus hot brie sauce. An additional range of Christmas cocktails, shakes and sundaes will also be served.
Established in 2006, with a Holborn venue, All Star Lanes has since opened three additional restaurants in London (White City, Brick Lane, Stratford) and one in Manchester. Launched with a mission ‘to elevate the image of bowling in the UK’, the bar and restaurant’s bowling element is arguably the most popular asset, and perhaps unsurprisingly. All lanes are immaculately polished, equipped with a fair range of ball-sizes, clear scoreboards and discrete bumpers erected on request. A good range of cocktails and craft beers are also served, quickly delivered to the lanes.
During peak times (after six o’clock from Wednesday to Friday, and all day on Saturday and Sunday), a reservation in the restaurant with its lurid striped carpet and unsympathetic lighting is required. A ‘Drink, Dine & Bowl’ package suggests good value at £30 per person, including a game of bowling, two courses and a cocktail from an abridged version of the main menu. While the bowling aims to challenge the UK’s image of bowling, the food served at All Star Lanes does very little to distance itself from the stereotype of children’s party food that’s mediocre at best.
From the ‘Drink, Dine & Bowl’ menu, dinner begins with ‘The Bitter Spare’, a cocktail of Jack Daniel’s, Angostura Amaro liqueur, vanilla syrup, lemon juice and Aperol – a sickly sweet concoction evocative of alcopops or cough syrup, served over crushed ice. ‘I Love NY’ is a similarly saccharine cocktail, again using Aperol, here teamed with Finlandia vodka, passion fruit syrup, lemon and apple juice.
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‘The Classic Burger’ boasts a 6oz chuck steak and rib cap patty, available with cheese for an additional £1.50 (£9.50 on the a la carte menu). Alas, the kitchen here will insist that the burger has to be cooked well-done, which dangles a question mark over the quality of the beef used. Even high street chain Five Guys will cook their burgers medium-well. This parched hockey puck of compacted beef is towered in a brioche bun alongside shredded lettuce, red onion, tomato and mayonnaise. A request for mustard is met with a blank expression, though service is otherwise quick and friendly. After all, the waiting staff cannot be blamed for the kitchen’s many, many shortcomings. On the side, skin-on fries taste of nothing more than funky cooking oil, potentially older than the restaurant group.
The buttermilk fried chicken burger features a dramatically overcooked chicken fillet evocative of burnt chicken dinosaurs, but without the joyous sense of nostalgia. The additional house slaw has a pungent taste of battery acid, while the house barbecue sauce’s hum of scorched plastic is even more inexplicable. A simple dessert of strawberry ice cream with whipped cream is, by far, the best thing eaten – crowned with a drizzle of Ice Magic and mercifully untroubled by inept cookery. A slab of chocolate fudge brownie, however, is rich and soft, as it should be, but quickly dries and flakes, like chalky Bournville chocolate and – like the burgers – leaves a lingering bitter taste.
Sure, the bowling is fun; but don’t expect to be bowled over by the lazy, tragically uninspired food offering.
All Star Lanes Stratford can be found at Westfield Stratford City, London, E20 1ET.