Authentic Algarvian piri piri restaurant Casa do Frango has opened its doors in Southwark this month, serving (unsurprisingly) chicken, alongside a selection of small plates and sides.
The Collective MJMK, the hospitality group behind the restaurant, is made up of a group of seasoned industry and property players. Marco Mendes and Jake Kasumov have been operating a separate group, MJMK, since 2013, the portfolio of which includes Brixton’s S11 bar; Homegrown health food café; and the more recently opened The Belrose pub and restaurant. The ‘Collective’ side of Casa do Frango’s parent group comes from Reza Merchant, founder of property company The Collective and respected property entrepreneur.
Occupying the upper floor of a Victorian building by Southwark’s railway arches, Casa do Frango’s airy dining room is high-ceilinged and bright thanks to its large arched windows and rows of skylights. The design, by London-based A-nrd Studio, sees the room maintain some of its original features such as the vaulted ceiling, while features such as distressed wood; exposed brickwork; hand-painted motifs; and hanging foliage add a contemporary, Portuguese-inspired feel to the space. Long communal tables and a lively atmosphere make the space ideal for large groups.
Despite its name translating literally to ‘House of Chicken’, the restaurant’s menu opens with a list of small plates to share including Algarvian gazpacho with cucumber, pickled garlic and roasted sourdough; beer battered whitebait with charred lemon and paprika aioli; grilled chorizo with black olive mayo and guindilla peppers; and octopus rice with roasted red pepper, garlic and charred lemon juice. The main event comprises half a chicken brushed with the diner’s choice of either piri piri, oregano or lemon and garlic. Chopped on the bone and served with accompanying sides such as hand-cut fries; lettuce salad with kalonji seeds; African rice with crispy chicken skin, chorizo and plantain, the chicken is tender, taking on the flavour of the wood charcoal it is cooked over without being overly smoky.
A concise drinks menu is heavily authentic to the restaurant’s concept, with even the Carvahelhos sparkling water being imported from Portugal. Beers comprise Super Bock, and an interesting section on the wine list comprises three green wines, which is one of Portugal’s best known offerings to the wine industry.
And another thing
The concept for the restaurant came when co-founder Mendes – who is half Algarvian – realised that the UK was lacking true, authentic piri piri chicken. The authenticity begins with the chickens, which must be 900g or less, cooked for 18 minutes without being marinated, before being brushed with a garlic-based sauce. “That is the Algarvian way,” says Mendes. “It is important to have the procedures, conditions and ingredients just right, otherwise it isn’t piri piri”.