"A fun restaurant and bar with hearty Creole food"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
It’s taken a surprisingly long time, but finally the American food trend is expanding to include southern and Creole cuisines, aka ‘soul food’. Creole food is a hybrid mix of Spanish, French, African and American flavours; it’s never been well-represented over here, but if you’ve ever eaten gumbo or jambalaya then you’ve tried it.
From glancing at the menu the guys behind The Bayou (who also run the mini-chain Simply Fish, a branch of which is just a few doors down) seem to know their stuff, offering things like grits, beignets, hush puppies and pumpkin Lafourche - dishes not often seen on these shores - as well as classics like the aforementioned gumbo and jambalaya, lobster and crawfish mac ‘n’ cheese pie, and pulled pork. Louisiana crab cakes (£7) are nicely seasoned with cilantro, served with a creamy avocado emulsion. Sausage gravy, biscuits and smoked ham is the very definition of hearty, with thick slices of ham home-smoked for 16 hours, while the biscuits are savoury tools for mopping up rich gravy.
The ‘Bayou platter’ has half a rack of beef ribs smothered in bourbon barbecue sauce, BBQ chicken wings, fries, biscuits and Mississippi coleslaw packed with dill. The meat on the ribs is impossibly tender - we can’t pick them up with fingers without it sluicing off the bone. Fried catfish arrives as two meaty, firm pieces of fish coated in golden breadcrumbs with a side of garlicky dirty rice, so called because it absorbs colour from the offal it’s cooked with. We also order the smothered cabbage, the smothering in question being tasty bits of sausage and smoky bacon.
The dessert menu has more southern treats like homemade Jack Daniels & Coke flavoured ice cream and Louisiana pumpkin pie. We try the peach cobbler, a tart with large chunks of hot fruit, the warm smell of cinnamon and brandy-infused cream.
Cocktails include an on-trend bacon old fashioned, a robust drink with bacon-infused bourbon garnished with four rashers, and the Scarlett o’ Hara, made with cranberry juice and Southern Comfort, giving it bubblegum-grade sweetness; apparently it was created for the premiere of Gone With the Wind in 1939. Even the live music, so often obtrusive or plain poor in restaurants is worthy of attention. Tonight it’s provided by a female duo playing blues and country, alternating between banjo, zither and guitar. Open all day and with a late closing time of 2am at weekends, Bayou does a good a job of representing southern food: filling, messy, served in large portions and without scrimping on flavour, but mostly it’s very good fun.
Leila reviewed Bayou on Mon 04 Aug 2014