Restaurant review: Kua’Aina in Soho
15:58 01 March 2013
Think Hawaii and I’m sure your mind will conjure up white beaches, palm trees and hula girls dancing to the sound of waves crashing into the shore.
26 Foubert’s Place, London, W1F 7PP
Tube: Oxford Circus
Tel: 020 7287 7474
Mains: from £5.95
Wine: from £16.95 a bottle
Children welcome: Yes
It may then come as a surprise to find all this behind the doors of a narrow restaurant just off London’s Carnaby Street.
Kua’Aina (pronounced Koo-a eye-na) is the first of its kind in Europe and is owned by two former Lehman Brothers employees who came up with the idea whilst sat in a Japanese incarnation of the burger bar.
The original can be found on Hawaii’s north shore and is said to be US President Barack Obama’s favourite bite when he’s in his home state.
His face greets me as I step out of the cold London air and into the tropical shack style restaurant.
Staff glide by in floral shirts and posters of palm trees take you more than 4,000 miles away from the bustle of the capital, to the warmth of volcano laden islands.
But most striking when you enter is the open kitchen where burgers are expertly lava grilled and the smells of authentic Hawaiian ingredients waft through the air.
After a brief chat with co-owner Ed Bardos, me and my girlfriend are transported to our golden booth where staff recommend their imported Hawaiian ales to accompany our meal.
Even this restaurant’s beer bottles have stunning waterfalls on their labels, and mix the taste of traditional ale with passion fruit that explodes from Kona Brewing Company’s Wailua and Big Wave.
The menu is rammed with everything you’d expect from a burger restaurant, though there are the added unexpected extras such as teriyaki chicken breast, tuna steak and grilled halloumi sandwiches.
Orders placed, and home roasted nut mix demolished, we are left open mouthed as two baskets holding our beefy burgers are dropped on to the table.
I opted for the 1/2 lb bacon and cheese burger with fries, while my friend went with the 1/3 lb avocado burger accompanied by sweet potato fries - both cooked medium.
To say these burgers were huge is an understatement. I contemplate cutlery for a millisecond, but opt for the authentic approach as I struggle to open my mouth wide enough.
The meaty burgers packed with tomato and onion are matched perfectly with the sweet potato crunch of the fries that gives that all American taste.
It’s a messy job, but we get through the food and it’s then that the restaurant really comes into its own.
Belts unbuckled and shirt buttons popped we can do little else than slide down our seats and stare longingly at the surfboards and island landscapes scattered around.
I can only imagine this contended state is the sort felt by those lucky enough to laze on the beaches of Kaua’i, O’ahu or Maui.
It’s apt that the Hawaiian word Aloha means both goodbye and hello because I’m sure I’ll find myself returning time and time again to this side street gem.