You could call it a coop d'etat…
Very good. It’s true, London is seeing a surge in chicken-focused concepts looking to make their mark. We’re not talking about your Nando’s and KFCs of the world here. Of course chicken restaurants have been around forever, but this new breed of premium restaurant puts a specific emphasis promoting higher-welfare produce; using free-range birds; and championing more of a chef-led approach.
My tummy’s rumbling. Give us some examples
Most recently, the team behind Fallow in St James’s announced that they will open a pop-up chicken shop round the corner from their restaurant in early October. And frankly, it sounds fantastic. Called FOWL, it promises to be a ‘chicken shop like no other’. Fallow chefs Will Murray and Jack Croft, alongside chairman James Robson, have created a ‘beak-to-feet’ menu including their interpretation of classic chicken dishes. Highlights will include cornbread with chicken and herb butter; chicken liver parfait with black cherries and sourdough soldiers; triple crisp hot wings with sriracha mayo; and a chicken Caesar salad with pickled lemon and anchovy. Although, for our money, the most exciting dish set to feature on FOWL’s launch menu is the chicken leg corn dog with Aleppo pepper (pictured above), which has been created by celebrated chef Pierre Koffmann in collaboration with the Fallow team.
Chicken leg corn dog? I’m in! What else is on the radar, though?
Well, this month saw the launch of LIMA CANTINA, one of several new rotisserie-style chicken concepts to open in the capital. Developed by the team behind long-running Fitzrovia restaurant LIMA and taking over the Garrick Street site previously occupied by Floral by LIMA, LIMA CANTINA bills itself as being focused on preserving traditional cooking methods. The centrepiece of the menu is the ‘pollo a la brasa’ Peruvian rotisserie chicken, which sees whole chickens cooked in a newly installed ‘rotombo’, a classic Peruvian charcoal-rotisserie, having been marinated in Peruvian herbs and spices beforehand. Other rotisserie chicken concepts to emerge recently include Bébé Bob in Soho, Leonid Shutov’s more informal spinoff to his glamorous British French restaurant Bob Bob Ricard, which is set to officially launch next week; and Story Cellar, Tom Sellers’ Parisian-inspired restaurant, which majors in rotisserie chicken (pictured below) sourced from France that’s expertly brined and cooked, and available as a half or whole portion with fries and a perfectly dressed house salad.
What’s driving this trend?
The positioning of each of these restaurants is interesting; they all occupy a more premium segment of the casual space, but appear designed to offer a more accessible price point to diners. A recent article in The Telegraph says that given the impact of the pandemic and subsequent financial uncertainties, is probably no surprise that chicken is having a moment. It quotes Daniel Heffy, executive chef of Nord in Liverpool, which serves a whole chicken dish cooked in XO emulsion and served with salad for £35. “Chicken is definitely cheaper,” he told the paper. “You can buy the best quality and it’s still not as expensive [as other meats]. We have a lot of clientele who are happy to spend, but we’re trying to make our restaurant inclusive. A piece of turbot can be £40-£60, but chicken is definitely on the menu as a way of being accessible.”
Liverpool, eh… so this isn’t a uniquely London trend?
Not at all. More widely, it seems that chicken is appearing on menus more and more, with many several prominent restaurants serving it as one of their star dishes. As well as Nord, The Telegraph article also notes that Firehouse in Manchester and The Palmerston in Edinburgh serve 'show-stopping' chicken dishes on their menus that have taken their respective cities by storm.