London has seen a spate of openings where poultry has a leading role, including Soho House’s rotisserie-style Chicken Shop in Kentish Town, The Tramshed in Shoreditch, which serves a limited menu of roast chickens and steak, and Rita’s Bar & Dining in Stoke Newington, where chicken wings and a fried chicken sandwich feature.
There’s more to come, however, including fried chicken and beer restaurant Wishbone, due to open later this month in Brixton Market, Canteen chef and co-founder Cass Titcombe’s Roost, and Chooks, which is soon to open in Muswell Hill.
Another rotisserie chicken concept, Clockjack Oven, is also due to launch in central London, with plans to create a chain of up to 15 sites. With US-style burgers as well as gourmet hotdogs having hogged the limelight in recent months, it was only a matter of time before it turned to chicken, says Scott Collins, co-founder of burger business MeatLiquor and a backer of Wishbone. “Chicken deserves to be treated with a bit of respect.”
Many poultry-based restaurants have been influenced by the resurgence of gourmet chicken in the US, adds Collins. “There’s a new wave of gourmet fried chicken in the States, from places such as Little Skillet in San Francisco. The traditional fried chicken in the US doesn’t really translate, but the more gourmet chicken does.”
Collins says that despite the glut of openings at the moment, the idea for chicken hasn’t come overnight, with many plans having been in the pipeline for a while. “When we started serving fried chicken at the Meatwagon at Herne Hill (in 2009) the bloggers went mental for it,” he says. Chef and food writer William Leigh, Wishbone’s founder, has been working on the idea for four years.
Chicken’s versatility has also been behind its current popularity, with the types of restaurants serving it varying greatly. Mark Hix’s Tramshed takes a more upmarket approach while Chicken Shop is altogether more mid-market.
Chooks, being launched by restaurateur Gideon Joffe, will also focus on value for money, with chicken served in quarters, halves and as a whole bird for £4.95, £6.95 and £12.95 respectively. As at Chicken Shop, there will also be a takeaway offer. “The consumer’s appetite for chicken seems insatiable. With Chooks we have tried to deliver on great food at great value without any pretention,” says Joffe.
Wishbone will be more “down and dirty,” says Collins, with a downstairs area for drinking and finger food, while upstairs will feature a bigger menu plus cocktails.