What: A huge, two floor restaurant and ‘Rock Shop’ located within Piccadilly Circus’ Criterion Building that, 48 years after establishing its original, flagship site on Old Park Lane, marks only the second restaurant opening by the Hard Rock group in the capital (although it also operates a hotel on the corner of Oxford Street and Park Lane).
Who: The original Hard Rock Cafe was opened by Americans Isaac Tigrett and Peter Morton (who have both since departed the company) in 1971. Originally positioned as a premium US-style burger restaurant with an ‘eclectic’ décor, the Hard Rock Cafe eventually became known for its displays of musical memorabilia; a theme that has followed the brand since it began expanding globally in the early 1980s. Today the group operates venues in 73 countries including 185 cafes, 237 Rock Shops, 28 hotels and 11 casinos.
The food: Hard Rock Cafe Piccadilly is the first restaurant operated by the group to carry its new menu. Hard Rock has called it ‘the most extensive menu innovation in the company’s history’, with more than 20 new dishes featured. However, for causal observers of the brand the offering appears to be broadly similar, with the portions (and prices) on the large side (most mains hover around the £20 mark).
On the menu: Central to it all remains the burger menu, now made using Black Angus beef. Choices include the brand’s new Legendary burger with smoked bacon, cheddar cheese, and onion ring and salad; the Double Decker Double Cheeseburger, which is positioned as an update of the Down Home Double Burger from the original 70s menu; and the Impossible plant-based vegan burger. New starters include a bowl of crispy, spiced shrimp tossed in a creamy, spicy sauce, topped with green onions and sesame seeds and served on a bed of coleslaw; and Southwest spring rolls with black beans, roasted corn, Monterey Jack cheese, red peppers and jalapeños with a guacamole ranch dipping sauce. While additional mains feature baby back barbecue ribs with fries, coleslaw and beans; cedar plank salmon with a mango and pineapple salsa, grilled corn on the cob and a beetroot salad with pepita seeds; and a kilo-sized tomahawk steak.
The vibe: In keeping with the bigger is better theme, the restaurant’s huge dining room has space for 320 covers, and includes a plush central bar and an open kitchen. It’s louder and more striking than the Old Park Lane site with the aesthetic focus, as ever, fixed on music memorabilia; although here the emphasis is more on contemporary artists. As such pieces from classic icons including Freddie Mercury, David Bowie and George Michael site alongside outfits worn by the likes of Shakira, Nicki Minaj and Ellie Goulding. There’s also a guitar once played by Ed Sheeran and a telephone box that once appeared in a One Direction video.
And another thing: Part of the Hard Rock’s new look is to try and appeal to the younger generations who are perhaps less familiar with the brand. It can be seen visually in the restaurant’s neon colours, and also on the menu, which features a number of Insta-worthy options including glitzy, hard milkshakes and a cheeseburger topped with an edible gold leaf.