The upstairs room at The Grafton now looks amazing. With new residents Lucky Chip in the kitchen, the space has been totally rethought, with booths, candles, sparkling white tiling, and a counter that hovers somewhere in the zeitgeist between fast food joint and cocktail bar.
For the uninitiated, Lucky Chip is an acclaimed Hackney burger joint with sister slider bar in Soho. For a month only, before the regular patty-and-bun offering kicks in, they’ve squeezed in a pop-up – Lucky Fried Chicken – to get us all talking about it. And of course, here we all are talking about it.
Lucky Fried Chicken has to win an award for the capital’s most ironic recreation yet of a 1950s American fast food menu. And where Chicken Shop roasts, they fry. But does a picture of a colonel in shades sail dangerously close to a law suit?
No matter, it’s only around for an undetermined “few weeks”, according to owner Ben. And at the launch yesterday, it was soon rammed with the hipster brigade all pressed against the bar ordering cocktails, from classics like mojitos to Grafton Specials (cucumber martini, anyone?) All of which is seems a welcome addition giving the pub yet another USP in this part of town. There’s a full list of wine and beers too, including both draft Pale Ale and Hell’s lager from the nearby Brewery.
The menu is illuminated, allowing customers to contemplate whether to plump for an ‘individual box’ (3 pieces of chicken, creamed potatoes, country gravy, slaw hot rolls) or various other combos from a ‘jumbo’ (5 pieces) to ‘barrel o’ chicken’, which at £38, feeds 7-10 hungry mouths across 21 pieces and is “perfect for church functions and social groups.” So far, so amusant.
On Wednesdays weekly specials of chicken livers, duck hearts and gizzards are wheeled out (around £4 a portion), so we started with a selection, all expertly fried, tender and moist, especially the hearts with their deeply flavoursome savoury centre. Ben was on hand to reassure us that the meat was from Berkshire, both free range and organic, hence perhaps higher prices than your average takeaway.
We then plumped for a ‘Thrift Box’, which at £19.50 was advised to feed 3-5 people (there were 4 of us). The biggest surprise was that the chicken, juicy and fingerlickin’, has a powerful hit of spice, although its coating was less “fried” than you might expect. Our foodie friend Matt (who is currently preparing a daunting 9 course charity dinner) was less impressed with the chips, however, which he reckoned were too pale and salty.
But we were too busy plunging our ‘dinner rolls’ into a wonderful creamy potato, sinking like a wreck in gravy, and nibbling on coleslaw that wasn’t quite as good as you know who, but still had the tangy sweetness that offsets white meat so delectably.
But the food is only a starting point here. The place felt vibrant and exciting, with a genuine atmosphere of discovery, despite the food offering being, in all honesty, not as cutting edge as the previous Grafton menu. And unlike Chicken Shop’s splendid rotisserie, with its theatre of slicing and chopping in the open kitchen, it’s a little harder to rave about the processes behind fried chicken.
Yet LFC epitomises K-Town’s current spirit, and we love what everyone involved is trying to achieve. Our only minor complaint was that the booths were too tight and wobbly, better suited to two than four. And whilst some readers have tweeted us already about prices, under a tenner for a main meal doesn’t feel too extortionate.
If you’re not a chicken lover, don’t forget Lucky Fried is only a sizzle in the pan; it’ll mutate into a burger bar soon (“what we do best,” said Ben). And there are no bookings; the food offering is available throughout both bars of The Grafton. But in the meantime we suggest catching this quirky poultry pop-up, yet more evidence of Prince Of Wales Road’s new-found status as the streetfood capital of NW5.
Words & Photos: Stephen Emms