THERE"S A REAL authentic American feel about the Chicago Rib Shack, the newly reopened old-style eaterie. Well, when I say “authentic”, I mean that it reminds me of the Cheers bar from the Eighties sitcom, so whether that is really authentic or a Hollywood approximation of it, who knows. Of course, not everybody knows our name when we arrived, but the waiter very soon got to know Grace, 14, and Joe, five. Meanwhile, I was enjoying the soundtrack of Marvin Gaye, Johnny Cash, Jim Reeves… then Ch-ch-ch-changes came on and Grace started singing along. “You like a bit of Bowie, do you?” I asked. She looked blankly. “Oh, you mean the song? I only know from Shrek,” she shrugged.
As we settled with our drinks, a young lady wearing a pink wig, a frilly spotted apron and carrying a Cath Kidston bag of tricks, introduced herself as Silly Milly, the resident children’s entertainer who tips up at weekends and parties to divert and amuse. Joe was happy to lend a hand with an “Abracadabra” here and there; Grace and I were happy with her magically quietening effect on Joe.
“The Shack”, as it is known by regulars, has a reputation for hearty signature dishes, including onion loaf, chicken wings, “manslaw” and the spare ribs – which come complete with a plastic bib for all diners, though I’m not sure how manly a grown-up guy looks getting bibbed up for his supper, even is his coleslaw is of the more macho variety. The ravenous among you might be tempted by the Whole Baby Piglet (feeds eight for £249) on the Feast Menu – provided
you have the prescience to pre-order. We skipped starters and went straight for mains; a cheeseburger and French fries for Joe from the children's menu (£7.95 for main, drink and dessert) and Buffalo fillet steak for me (£29.95) and the Surf N Turf for Grace at £35 (yes, pity her future boyfriend’s wallet!).
The meat is all sourced locally and sustainably, and the beef is 100 per cent organic. Our steaks were truly sumptuous (though Grace deemed the skewered prawns a little dry). They were let down only by the lack of Dijon mustard (they just had that yellow stuff in a squeezy bottle – great on hotdogs, but not finest fillet). Our chunky chips also looked great but were not crisp. Our waiter noticed Grace and I turning up our noses – and nicking fries from Joe’s plate – and whisked them away to return with two plates of fresh-from-the-fryer fries that were much more to our taste.
By now, Silly Milly had been joined with an accomplice with a bag full of modelling balloons so Joe was being ballooned up with pirate memorabilia, including a sword, hat and parrot. We managed to entice him back to our table to enjoy his ice-cream with sprinkles, while Grace tucked into the suitably decadent Crispy Chocolate Sundae and I sampled the equally calorific Banoffee Pie.
As we left, having pigged out quite magnificently, we handed in our pig designs, hoping to have our artistic endeavours rewarded by being chosen to join their Exhi‘Pig’tion wall display of hand-painted piggy banks. The prize is to have your willing design painted by an artist and placed on the wall for all to admire. Will Joe’s scribbled scrawl win? Do pigs fly?
Chicago Rib Shack, 145 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7PA. Tel: 020 7591 4664; Open daily from midday to midnight. Nearest tube: Knightsbridge