My clumsy tourist vocab of Hawaii stretches about as far as ‘Aloha’ and ‘Mahalo’. Yet despite my pathetic knowledge of the grass-skirt culture, thankfully not much more is needed to successfully taste the best cuisine from the land of the flowery lei. Kua Aina is the new kid on the block and the block is London’s infamously cool Carnaby Street. Taking up residence on Foubert’s Place, it’s pretty hard to miss; what with the perky yellow paint and the strategically placed surf board that hangs above the sliding doors, walking into the sunshine shack, is like taking that first step off the plane.
Honouring the original restaurant which opened in Haleiwa in ’75, the décor is a trip to the sandy shores of Hawaii. From the wooden flooring which screams for the clattering of tanned feet and flip-flops, to the bamboo roof and spinning fans that hang above, reminding us moody Londoners that somewhere in the world there is, in fact, nice weather.
The menu is an homage to all things chargrilled; the only way to eat meat and fish it seems. Burgers are lava-grilled to medium perfection and the freshest tuna and mahi-mahi steaks, still flushed pink in the middle, are served wedged between two slices of rye bread to make a mouth-watering sandwich like no other.
A delicious bowl of ‘poke’ (an Ahi tuna and avocado salad) kept me busy until the main attraction arrived in the shape of a beasty 1/2lb bacon and cheese burger. Snugly stacked between a toasted sesame seed bun with crisp lettuce, juicy tomato and crunchy white onion, the basket also brought with it one of the oddest accompaniments to a burger ever, in the shape of half a raw carrot. Distracted by every juicy bite of my burger, I forgot to ask our charming waiter (in a classic flowery Hawaiian shirt) the thought behind the odd addition but whatever their reasoning, I approve. More baskets arrive filled with moreish sweet potato chunky fries, offering a welcome change to the usual potato chips and tangy dill pickle is polished off without much hesitation.
The restaurant has clearly already gained a popular following despite its recent London opening. Our weekday visit saw pretty much every table full with happy eaters oohing and aaahing over each new basket. Thanks to a certain President of the United States, yes Barack Obama himself, who has been known to swing by his local shack for his signature avocado and bacon burger when he visits his home state, the Kua Aina buzz filtering through the London crowds is more than justified.
A great selection of Hawaiian beers and pitchers is on offer and can be shared in funky booths downstairs, so it’s a great place to share a celebration with friends. Bookings can be made in advance and are strongly advised, so that when you arrive simply shake off your winter layers, close your eyes and point at the menu because nothing on there will disappoint.
26 Foubert’s Place
Tel: 020 7287 7474