So yesterday at 6pm sharp we swanned down the unmarked staircase into a candle-lit 1950s diner interior. It’s Alpine lodge-meets-speakeasy, adorned with enviably knackered industrial pendants. The best seats are at the counter facing the chefs and their rotisserie, but these were all taken, so we sat at a modish formica table. In fact, we preferred the interior to its posher ground floor sibling: it’s appealingly secret, with very flattering lighting, perfect for a date, in fact (them were the days). But be warned: 45 minute waits are standard. Lucky The Vine is across the road.
Chicken Shop’s menu is on a blackboard, but there’s no choice as such. It’s just free-range Norfolk chicken marinated overnight: a quarter, half or whole (£4/£8/£14.50 respectively). Add crinkle cut chips, coleslaw, lettuce and avocado salad, corn on the cob (deliciously buttery) – all around £3-4. There were three of us, so we ordered it all. And our Brixtonian meat-loving friend Louise – an evangelical disciple of Honest Burger – was on hand to dispel any excessive NW5-related prejudice we may have in favour of the place.
The whole chicken arrived already cut up, practical if not beautiful. We squeezed a couple of lemon quarters over it and started tearing the flesh off. As you’d expect, the spit-roast flavour was concentrated in the skin: salty, chargrilled, herby. The meat was admirably moist. Hot and smoky sauces were on hand too, depending on how much kick you want, and a good mayonnaise to dunk the very well-salted chips into. The slaw was creamy (and quite frankly too small between three).
We weren’t going to order dessert, but the waitress pressed an apple pie on us, and at these prices, it seemed rude to argue. She appeared a moment later (service is very, very quick) with a homely pie and kitchen knife in hand, asking us how big a slice we’d like. A mouthful each; and it was tart enough for a non-dessert lover like myself.
What else? The waiting staff, as in Pizza East, were almost intrusively keen – we felt at times pounced on – but we think this will settle down. And they were very sweet. And as with places like Dach & Sons, there’s no wine list – it’s just listed on the board as house, decent or ‘good’. We chose house and were impressed. It’s £16 for a bottle-sized tin jug.
The bill was £61 between three including service. Not bad for a no holds barred pig out, with all the sides, dessert and a couple of jugs of wine. (We really wanted to snap you some food pics, but alas it was just too dark).
And Lou’s thoughts? ‘I adored it,’ she said (and she’s a tricky one), licking her lips as we crossed the road back to The Vine. Her only criticism? The chips were ‘a little over cooked.’ Right.
In fact, we were all in such fine spirits that we swung by Shebeen for a late night negroni. Well, it makes the perfect stop-off when you’re escorting a friend back to the tube.
Words: Stephen Emms