Saturday, 13 October 2012

The Chicken Shop: breast chicken in london

No jokes, just brilliant.

So there’s a newish trend among good restaurants of offering only three or four main courses. They’ve all decided we don’t need choice, we need to be spoonfed (not literally unless it’s soup). Instead of choice they’re overselling what they do offer, through more provenance, endless buzz terms and the odd French word. Diners also aren’t worthy of cardboard menus anymore either, just paper ones. All we’d do is spill our jus all over it.

The founders of the Chicken Shop, the second restaurant attached to Pizza East in Kentish Town, evidently think the choice of four main courses is a bit much for the average consumer. Instead they offer one; one main dish, helpfully labelled “chicken”. They sidestep the fact that they are marinated in paprika and oregano overnight and spit-roasted whole at the back of the restaurant. Because that might confuse us.

And we have enough choices to make. We have to choose the size –quarter, half or whole; we have to choose what sauce to put on it – hot or smoky; and then we have the sides, and there a like... four of those.
I chose chips – the gorgeous crunchy numbers they serve upstairs at Dirty Burger – while my friend went for the awesome house salad – cos and avocado in a buttermilk dressing. Apparently buttermilk has almost no fat. Who knew.

The chicken and sides came in white enamel dishes, thrown onto the table by our busy waiters (we had three within the hour we had the table) with something bordering on care. Having dipped my finger in both the sauce bottles (sorry) I plumped for the smoky sauce. While the hot one was delicious zingy and lemony, the idea of eating half a chicken coated in the stuff made me sweat. The smoky still had a kick, but both sauces could have done with being a little stickier. Not only would it have helped the texture, it would have saved my friend’s dress a trip to the dry cleaner. No real complaints about the meat though – moist without being watery, smoked without being burnt and stacked with flavours so good I actually considered gnawing the bones. Luckily the waiter prematurely took away the bowl with them in, so I was spared the indignity.
Sometimes you feel a bit hurried – you only have table for an hour, and the queue is inside, so people watch and hover over you like vultures, knowing that every second you linger is a second longer for them to wait. But they can have drinks while they wait and it’s such a pleasant place to be – all old wood, smoky spit-roasts and people chatting animatedly despite having chicken in their teeth – that it doesn't matter.

The Chicken Shop seems to be one of those eureka moments – a concept so perfect it’s amazing no one has tried it before. That’s probably because it wouldn’t have been possible ten years ago, when the idea of fine dining was the Ivy. Now it’s these little secret places where you’re encouraged to eat with your hands; where you can take your food away to the nearest pub and eat there; where if you order the apple pie, the waiter brings the whole damn thing and lets you cut as big a slice as you want; and where people are happy to queue for 20 minutes for a bit of chicken.

It would be easy to overstate how good the Chicken Shop is. It’s very clever but in a simple way, and its food is very tasty but in an unambitious way. But you can’t deny that it’s probably the most satisfying and delicious places to eat in London – the fact it costs less than £20 for two courses, drinks and service is, frankly, ludicrous.

53-79 Highgate Road, Kentish Town, London

Chicken Shop on Urbanspoon   Square Meal

1 comment:

  1. Dear Jonny

    On behalf of Square Meal, I want to say a big ‘thank-you’ for linking your restaurant reviews to the Square Meal pages. I’ve really enjoyed reading about your meals (good and bad!) and I particularly love the photos you’ve included and would like to let you know how valuable it is to Square Meal users to have easy access to other diners’ experiences, to help them choose a dining venue.

    Please do keep your blogs coming in and spread the word amongst your contacts. If you have any questions or suggestions about how we can improve your experience, please do get in touch – via email (, phone, Facebook or Twitter.

    Best wishes