Chicken is great (unless of course you don’t eat it, in which case I’m telling you: it’s great). You can fry it, roast it, grill it, and no matter what you do it tastes delicious. Probably. When it comes to eating out or in, though, the options are fairly uniform: KFC for fried, Nandos for grilled, and… that’s about it.
Don’t get me wrong, I love KFC (their recent offer of 9 pieces for £5.99 to celebrate their 50th anniversary was SUPERB and I brought it home to my partner who made us sweet potato mash and onion gravy to go with – I know, I’ve found a good one) and I love Nandos. But I like my food to have an individual twist (unless it’s McDonalds or Dominos, in which case I’ll accept no substitutions). I guess there’s a point where this stops being fast food or junk food and starts being something more, but once you’ve seen me with chicken around my mouth, you’ll agree that it’s not exactly fine dining, either – and so, onwards I review.
1. Chicken Shop – Kentish Town, London, http://www.chickenshop.com/
Chicken Shop is like Nandos, if Nandos only sold one type of chicken and was altogether probably a bit cheaper. This is a good thing though – trust me. Chicken Shop is one in a series of restaurants popping up all over London that offer one menu item and do it very well. Their chicken (free range, marinated overnight and cooked on a rotisserie spit, of course) comes in the familiar quarter, half or whole sizes, can be flavoured smoky or spicy as per your taste-buds, and can then be complemented by a small yet well thought out selection of sides, drinks and puds.
This is the sort of place you can expect to queue at; in the Kentish Town branch I arrived at just the right time that I didn’t need to, though we were seated with a caveat that it would be appreciated if we didn’t take too long as they were expecting to be busy. Sure enough, it didn’t take long for a crowd of people to accumulate by the bar.
Still, it isn’t hard to see why. My partner and I shared a whole chicken that was evenly (and tastily) flavoured, melted away from the bone and was a perfectly huge portion size, with a side order of chips and the standard beer and wine. With delicious food came friendly, fast service and an atmosphere that just feels more grown up than Nandos – all underground and moody lighting – even though it is still child-friendly You can’t ask for more than that, really.
2. Chooks Chicken – Muswell Hill, London, http://www.chooks.me/
Chooks also do grilled chicken, and if it’s anything like their buttermilk fried chicken, it’s exceptional – but I wouldn’t know, so I won’t pretend to. The fried chicken was crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and the mash and gravy an accoutrement I now can’t live without (hence, KFC and mash). The frozen passion fruit daiquiri was sweeter and stronger than I anticipated (which is certainly a good thing…) and they do 50% off beers and cocktails between 5pm and 7pm during the week, so all the better. It’s pricier than KFC, but when you’re getting so much delicious food on your tray you start thinking it’s worth it. It’s worth it for a treat, certainly.
And on a side-note, I’ll never get enough of a place that provides a roll of kitchen towel instead of flimsy napkins. That’s the kind of place I want to eat; where mess is expected.