Lucy Self went to East London and found a concept as crisp as its batter at Bird Restaurant
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One of the secrets of success for any restaurateur is having crystal clear idea what you want your eatery to be. Think Mr Norman and his individually evocative empire of London hot spots (Jewish del-cum-cocktail-bar at Mishkins, Venetian bacaro at Polpo) or Gymkhana – with everything from the light fitting to the dishes telling the same Colonial tale. Executing your concept, then having the guts to grab those guns like a limpet is a large part of longevity and (if you are so inclined) roll out.
Having a pre-dinner chat with Paul Hemings from new Shoreditch chicken joint BIRD, we get the impression that he and co-owner/wife Cara Ceppetelli have a similar sensibility. He explains they chose fried chicken because, whilst there are endless examples on the lower end of the scale (let’s not pretend we’ve never visited our local Morley’s following a particularly messy night), the numbers dwindle decidedly when it comes to nice places serving crisply battered, cared for chooks.
The tight as a tiger menu sticks slickly to the white stuff (free range of course). There’s a selection of fried pieces and wings with a generous list of glazes and dipping sauces; a couple sandwiches (one beast of a burger, that replaces the bun with two cheddar and onion waffles); and an eclectic arrangement of sides and salads.
We couldn’t find fault with the fried stuff; both the wings and pieces encased in a golden coat that crunched satisfyingly with every chew. The accompanying dips were clever too, accounting for all tastes from a bracing buffalo sauce to a chilli sweet gochujang (that umami hit of fermented miso paste never gets old). Whilst half the size of its sassy sister waffle version, the chicken sandwich still packed a sizable punch – the oil-free battered breast cut through by the soft potato roll, sweet pickles and Asian-tanged crunchy slaw.
There are two stand out sides at Bird restaurant which should be ordered: a sharp pile of cucumber dunked in rice vinegar and decked in a spicy sesame coat, and a satisfyingly liquid corn pudding with jalapeno heat and a cheesy breadcrumb crust. Both very different, but both helping to elevate what is essentially some well-executed junk food to a more interesting level.
We ducked out of desserts in favour of another cocktail (try the ribena-based one for a pleasing pull of nostalgia or the Two One Two (aperol and tequila in the same glass AND the owner’s favourite) – but we’re told the doughnuts do a roaring trade.
If there’s anything to criticize about BIRD, it’s that for a new restaurant it’s almost too seamless. Every part of the sum – the just-designed-enough-without-trying-to-be-too-trendy interior, smiling staff (so attentive at one point the manager sat down with us to chat), a menu which knows what it wants and has plenty you’ll want and a thoroughfare of a location at the Hoxton end of the Kingsland Road – adds up to home run.
There’s no doubt this husband and wife team have nabbed themselves a convincing spot on the comparatively narrow field of fried chicken. And whilst it’s not the most exciting, or the most original, there’s no denying they have nailed it when it comes to clarity of concept. Hemings also hinted that there are ambitions for roll out – so we might see BIRD’s landing all over London before long…
For more information visit birdrestaurants.com