I laughed when my friend suggested it as a brunch destination – not because it was a funny joke, but because I knew he was 80% serious. “Dude imagine if it turns out to be ace: you’ll be that guy who surprises everybody and gives it a good review despite what everybody else says”
He had a point, I do like being “that guy”, and there’s been an eerie silence surrounding The Joint since it opened. The only press I’ve seen it receive has been from “Everybody’s a winner just for taking part!” publications who would write a positive review of the influenza virus if it meant the subsequent social media shares bolstered the price they charge advertisers. With Get Baked/The Joint boasting an impressive sixty thousand Facebook sycophants, a couple of shares of a glowing review could bring enough extra traffic to take down a site completely.
Spoiler alert! You’re reading this on a screen rather than from a crumpled piece of paper in a dystopian future where CousCousBangBang.com lies in tatters; ransacked by the sudden rush of traffic from Get Baked’s Facebook page. Obviously this isn’t the glowing review you’re looking for – but it’s not all bad.
Let’s get some of those bad things out of the way in the order we encountered them: Before we even get through the door we’re reminded of the The Joint’s tiresome insistence on being a counter-culture “anti-restaurant” by the “High Five Guys” tagline on the sign. Particularly vigilant readers among you might notice a few more subtle nods to their revolutionary pro-marijuana stance peppered throughout the dining experience, but touches like this ring especially timid when you consider the amount of money investors have poured into this intricately choreographed rebellion-by-committee.
Instructions on what to do when you get inside are unclear – there’s a front-desk but nobody greeting you, servers sat at the bar and bar staff having a relaxed drink. It’s made all the more jarring by the décor – what was conceived as some Edgar Wright-esque collage of intertextual reference fails in its execution, resembling a 40ft school exercise book with magazine clippings pritt-stuck all over it, to let everyone in Maths know what kind of cool stuff you’re into. The music policy is similarly aggressive, with songs being played at you as if by a teenager’s mobile phone on a bus. I love the Beastie Boys as much as the next white guy in his late 20s, but not even Ad Rock wants to hear So Whatchu Want first thing on a Saturday morning. The Joint excels in the art of leaving nothing to the imagination, where a little restraint would do them a lot of favours.
When done correctly, pop culture reference is great shorthand for and useful to establish context and engage customers (It might not be for everyone, but Fab Café does this with amazing success) – when you cover a restaurant in hundreds of pictures to make sure there’s something for everybody, it’s try-hard and just a bit naff. My friend described the wall as “Like the montage in Rules of Attraction where the guy describes travelling around Europe – but he’s describing my childhood”. Now that’s how you reference pop culture.
The greeter (even though this totally isn’t like other restaurants) gets defensive when we ask not to be seated right in the middle of the empty restaurant (We were informed that “It’s empty because they’d only just opened, guys”) and reluctantly sat us on the table next to the one we asked to sit at, so at least she wasn’t completely averse to compromise. When we were sat, it took our new server five trips to the bar and back before we found drinks we could order (coffee is a no-no in this breakfast restaurant, and most of the soft drinks were sold out), with each failed attempt adding to the sense of schadenfreude.
I was quickly knocked off my smug-horse when my milkshake arrived. “My Name Is Jeff” might be (is) a stupid name for a milkshake, but tasted absolutely on point – a Cinnamon Pop Tart blended with their take on Momfuku Milk Bar’s cereal milk was always going to be a winner, but £5 for something that lasted all of a few gulps is A Frijj Too Far.
For more embarrassing name/decent food dissonance just look to the Pancake section – Cringe as you order the Cocoa Kush or Blueberry Haze, for everything in this section is named after a strain of weed! Yawn. Guys, we get it.
There’s little to find fault with in the food though. Sure the LA Confidential arrives a little stodgy under the weight of the bacon, egg, and sausage patties (higher than usual diner quality, seasoned and cooked well), but the Northern Lights are light and fluffy, with plenty of fat blueberries popping between your teeth to cut through the salty crispy bacon on top.
By all means order the Korean Fried Chicken wings, but get the Maple syrup-drenched Blame Canada variety and you’ll be blaming them for your next trip to the dentist. Also eat them hot and fresh from the fryer, each wing brings diminishing returns with every minute that passes – The Hot Leg I saved and returned to at the end of the meal was a soggy shadow of its former self. We battled Liu Kang fries, but didn’t manage to FINISH HIM!! They’d be more suited to prolonged grazing at a bar with plenty of refreshment from the dry, lip-puckering heat of the seaweed and sriracha.
For £30 (minus the tip – in this case I’m not ashamed to say that we didn’t leave one; that rude greeter who disappeared after seating us at the table we didn’t want to sit at turned up again as soon as the wallets came out) we ate enough to make us slightly uncomfortable. Some of it was pretty good as well, but it’s difficult to imagine a scenario where I’m rushing back to eat at a restaurant that gets the food right, but everything else so wrong.
Sixty-one thousand people can’t be wrong though (yes it really has gone up that much since the intro) and I’m in the minority; people will continue to want to feel like they’re a part of The Joint’s all-inclusive safe-edginess, freshly enthused every time they notice a relic from their childhood in the décor that looks like Buzzfeed whitey’d all over the walls.
Update: My review provoked this PR Nightmare of a response from Get Baked (NSFW warning: Contains profanity) – a paranoid, vitriolic rant that serves as the most effective warning against the dangers of excessive marijuana consumption since John Snow got high for science.
Get Baked Presents The Joint