Posted on November 9, 2012
So we’ve waited and waited to have a LITTLE bit of spare cash, and when the time comes we can think of nothing better to do than go to the pub. The cloest and best booze house we can hit is our old favourite, The Southampton Arms. As we’re going to be hungry and there’s a sense of celebration at having cash for the first time in a month, we decide to finally check out Chicken Shop, which is a 5 minute walk from the destination pub. Being carefree/disorganised, we haven’t booked a table so head straight to Chicken Shop as we anticipate a wait. The place is packed so we book ourselves in for an hour later and head to the pub for a beer and a starter.
As ever the beer selection is great, but everything is under 5% and we’re confused for a moment, before settling on delicious things that AREN’T super alcoholic. I go for a Raspberry Coffee Stout from By The Horns, which probably shouldn’t be nice, but is genuinely tasty, though I do like a stout to have an aggressive booze backbone, and this weighs in at just 3.6%. Pel tries a red ale from Tiny Rebel, in our first dalliance with the Welsh brewers. Believe the hype, the drink is legit, and their artwork is pretty sweet too.
As this is a fucking fantastic pub, their bar food is excellent too, so we share a veggie scotch egg and a sausage roll. Both great, though they should definitely stock the sausage roll I make with black pudding, apples and cider, because it’s a taste sensation. Anyway, we get a call from Chicken shop saying there’s a table so we finish our booze and head down to the basement eatery. We’re offered a table or a counter space, opting for the counter so we can get a better view of everything.
There’s an open kitchen situation going on with a huge island counter forming the ‘table’ we’re sat at and a kitchen workbench on the other. The chickens spit roast over flames and a murderous-looking chef wearing a chain-mail glove hacks them apart with a cleaver and arranges the meat for service. He also banters with the customers and is seemingly the most relaxed chef in the world. This is probably because the menu is fantastically basic. There’s one kind of chicken, served in 3 different portion sizes and four different simplistic sides. To be fair, this is pretty good business thinking, as the kitchen can turn around orders really quickly and everything on the menu is prep-heavy and light on cookery and plating.
We order half a chicken to share, along with chips, coleslaw and corn on the cob. We also double our budget by ordering a couple of pale ales from nearby Camden Town Brewery. The beers are expensive but the eats are reasonable so we don’t particularly give a shit. Anyway, I’ve neglected to mention how super-heavily stylised this place is; vintage Americana is super sexy trendy at the minute and these guys are going balls-out for the style. They’ve clearly took all that money saved on food and put it into the aesthetic of the place.
When the food arrives, we’re suddenly inundated with dishes and ramekins. There’s pots of condiments, pots for bones and the various dishes we’ve ordered. There’s a nice touch as the waiter pours optional hot butter over the corn at the table, and it’s also pretty good that they give you ketchup and mayo before we have to ask. It’s not long before we realise this is to make sure we dip and cover the bland chips. Unfair! you say, but chips can be delicious simply seasoned. These, however, sort of taste like oven chips. Maybe it’s just because they’re crinkle cut and remind me of 90s Micro Chips, so my brain is fucking with my tongue.
The chicken is delicious and moist and goes down really well with the house condiments, which are pretty exceptional. The BBQ sauce is some of the best I’ve had, leaning more towards smokiness than sweetness and the hot sauce is the kind of tasty that gets me all kinds of sweaty trouble. The corn is fantastic, because it’s corn on the cob, food of gods, and it’s charred and covered in garlic butter. On a negative note, however, the coleslaw is pretty shit. It’s overly lemony and lacking any real flavour. The veg looks sort of processed and just doesn’t taste of anything.
Despite my issues, the meal is very tasty, if basic and it’s good value so I don’t really mind at all. As we leave, we pick up a couple of glossy magazines from the waiting table and are told by a member of staff that we’re free to take them. Browsing the literature on the tube home, I’m confused by constant reference to ‘Soho House’, until I realise I’ve just been to a restaurant belonging to a huge group so rich they can produce self-congratulatory magazines. This slightly changes things. Before this revelation I thought the basic, cheaply made menu was a clever, low-risk thing for a new business. Now I realise its big money making bigger money in a low-risk trendy venture. Same old story I suppose.
Anyway, what a really fucking pleasant night out; Great beer and good eats always makes us happy. And the condiments were world class. In summary: if you fancy a Nando’s, fuck it off and go to Chicken Shop, because the chicken is better, if not the sides.