Atomic Diner, Union Street: Review

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Atomic Diner - Exterior

 

As of early 2017 there are two Atomic restaurants in Bristol: as well as Atomic Burger on Gloucester Road, we now have Atomic Diner on Union Street, which opened on January 12th. Alongside their burgers, shakes and sides that you’ll also find in their burger restaurant, you’ll also find pizzas added to the mix, with the menu featuring the same choices as the team’s Atomic Pizza restaurant in Oxford.

From a décor point of view, it’ll look pretty familiar too. This is a place that pays homage to all manner of favourites from popular culture past and present, from the life-sized Simpsons sofa (complete with space for you to sit in for those all-important photos) to memorabilia from everything from Star Wars to Buffy The Vampire Slayer to Disney. There are even old-school arcade machines to the left of the bar, and a TV screen showing music videos that, on the night of our visit, starred Steps, The Proclaimers and more. And this is only the start – we were told by the manager that there are plans for even more merchandise to be added, giving you plenty to look at during the course of your meal…

 

Atomic Diner - Interior

 

We loved the bar too, the front decorated with VHS video tapes, proving that there is still some use for them…

 

Atomic Diner - Bar

 

We were sat in the garden: an astro turfed area complete with white picket fence by the window, looking out over the restaurant, the semi-open plan kitchen and the bar. Presented with our menus (designed to look pretty comic book-like), we were offered a jug of tap water for the table, and were left to make our choices…

We’d already both decided that we’d start our evening with a milkshake…the tough part was choosing which to go for. For me, it had to be the Cookie Monster (£4.75): an Oreo and cream shake in a glass drizzled with chocolate sauce. The first few mouthfuls were a little thin and not particularly cold, but a quick stir sorted this out to some extent. I’d have like a little more Oreo flavour, though (when it comes to Oreo shakes, Byron still comes out top for me).

My sister was more daring and chose The Baconator (also £4.75): intriguingly described on the menu as a caramelised bacon shake with cream and maple syrup. Our waitress apologised for the shortage of caramelised bacon pieces which are normally sprinkled on top of the milkshake and offered a cherry instead, which the sister happily accepted. Her verdict? “Life-changing!” A little odd at first, she said, but really bacony and smoky with a sweet and salty flavour combo…a bit like sweet Frazzles in a glass.

 

Atomic Diner - Milkshakes

 

We both ordered our food from the burger menu (the pizzas look fantastic, but we weren’t in pizza mood – I’ll review those down the line!), with my sister choosing the Bandit Burger (£10.50): a burger described by our waitress as “one of the most under-rated on the menu”. All burgers can be ordered as beef, chicken or veggie options, and the beef is cooked medium unless ordered otherwise. The burgers are each served with a choice of free standard side, and it was the sweet potato fries that caught my sister’s eye.

The bun didn’t look like much when the food came out, to be honest – but it held together well and had a good flavour. The Cajun-rubbed burger was beautifully cooked and well-spiced, topped with cheese, BBQ sauce and an onion ring that tasted good, but was a bit overcooked and tough. The sweet potato fries were crisp on the outside, fluffy in the middle, as they should be, but had barely been seasoned at all.

 

Atomic Diner - Bandit Burger

 

I’ve got to say, my Elizabeth Shue burger (£11.50) really didn’t look great at all when it appeared on the table, but I was intrigued to see how well the combination of a beef burger, Camembert, prosciutto crudo, crispy onions, red onion, BBQ sauce, chipotle sauce, ketchup and gherkins worked. The burger itself was beautiful and the ham and cheese combo added a great deal of flavour, but it was hard to distinguish the different sauces, and I was surprised that the gherkin was missing. I ordered mine with a side of “sci fries” – fries seasoned with chilli and garlic – which had a great deal of flavour but could have been crisper.

 

Atomic Diner - Elizabeth Shue Burger

 

The portions were generous, and the serving staff came over to ask us how our food was while we were eating, which is always positive. We were too stuffed for dessert (I blame the milkshakes), so we asked for the bill, and loved the fact that we were presented with Vimto lollies along with the request for payment – a nice little touch in fitting with Atomic Diner’s vibe.

(There’s only one in the picture below, as my sister got a little too excited before I could take the photo…)

 

Atomic Diner - Bill

 

It’s an interesting place: we love the concept and the décor, and the nod to popular culture in the names of the menu choices. Our meal was a little hit and miss, but we did visit in the first week, which may have meant that the team were still finding their feet. We’re definitely planning on heading back to try their pizzas, and we’re looking forward to seeing how the Atomic team fare in their second Bristol home!

 

 

 

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