I’m getting the feeling people here really like chicken; this is the conclusion I’ve come to after spotting the huge number of chicken joints around. Everywhere.
There’s no shortage of the fast food giants like KFC, Nando’s, and of course the local secret shame, Chicken Cottage, but on top of that you have the smaller players like the Peri-Peri Chickens, or Lick’n Chick’ns of the world. The one thing they have in common for me? I’m just not so sure I actually want to eat there. Don’t get me wrong, I am partial to a good old KFC Zinger Burger when the cravings call, but I think we all agree that Chicken Cottage is a 3am starting-to-sober-up thing, and Nando’s is just an overpriced version of that.
But now, chicken seems to be trending upwards; the humble bird is getting high-brow. Once upon a time, ordering chicken in a restaurant was considered unadventurous, boring even. Why would you order chicken when you can do it yourself at home? Granted it probably won’t be better than the chef’s version, but it is likely to be better than your attempt at a Beef Wellington or that elaborate sounding fish dish. This mindset seems to be turned on its head with the popularity of fancy chicken places. Like their low class neighbours, they also do chicken either spicy, smokey, fried, grilled, rotisseried, but they claim to do it better.
One of these more upmarket chicken shops of the moment is the aptly named Chicken Shop. I’ve heard people raving about it, I’ve read enthusiastic reviews, so figured it was time to see if it lives up to the hype. Oh and it just happens to be round the corner from my house. Unsurprisingly the second branch of the Chicken Shop is in Tooting, after all, the place is very up and coming. So everyone keeps telling me.
Our party of four arrived just before 7pm on a Thursday and managed to get a table easily, but I suspect things would get busier from then on. It didn’t take long for us to decide our order; your options are a quarter, half, or whole chicken, and sides of fries, corn, coleslaw, or lettuce salad. Drinks are just as simple; a couple of non-alcoholic options, a couple of beers, and red or white wine in varying degrees of quality- house, decent, or good. With hungry stomachs and the appealing smells wafting around the room, we wasted no time.
The food arrived reasonably quickly, all conversation ceased, the focus was on the much hyped chicken. The verdict- it’s a decent effort. The crispy skin dotted with charred bits was probably the highlight. The meat was tender in most parts, but dry in others, and much to my disappointment, a little bland. Which I suppose is where the sauces come in. I’m a huge fan of condiments, particularly spicy ones so I was fairly liberal in slathering it on. Both hit the spot- nothing to rival my love for Rocket Fuel sauce or Sriracha, but it did do the chicken a favour.
For a place with such a limited menu, I expected the sides to be better. Nothing wrong with the options, I just wish they were a bit more memorable. Biting into the corn cob gave me a mouthful of shrivelled kernels, and I’m told the coleslaw wasn’t great, probably due to the lack of carrot- criminal! At least the fries were crunchy, and the salad on the neighbouring table looked good too, but they didn’t exactly do much to the lettuce and avocado.
After all this, I was pretty full but after spying the apple pie on the neighbouring table, M and I just could not resist. I’m glad we found some room because it was the best thing we ate that night. Served up table-side, straight out of the huge pie dish, trust me, it tastes a lot better than it looks. The filling had the ideal combo of tart apples covered in a sticky, sweet sauce which was then covered with a crisp, buttery pastry. This is why you should always save room for dessert! Definitely a good way to end the meal.
So would we go again? Probably. It’s not the most amazing finger-licking-good chicken I was hoping for, but for those nights we want a takeaway that isn’t Indian, easier said than done in Tooting, we’ll make a stop at the Chicken Shop.
Chicken Shop, 141 Tooting High Street, SW17 0SY, open from 12pm every day.
See Alex Ward’s guide to “Hunting fried chicken in London” here.