Clucking great chicken at Absurd Bird…

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Crispy. Crunchy. Plump. Juicy. With personality traits like these, it’s hardly surprising that fried chicken is the current king of low-key London dining. Type ‘chicken restaurant London’ into Google and 38’900’000 hits appear. Remove every Chicken Kingdom-Palace-Village-Town from the list and you’re still left with an insane number of places to get your poultry fix from so when a new spot opens up that promises cold beer, hot birds & the sort of relaxed vibe that makes you wanna take up residency there like some sort of feathery freak, you know it’s got to be checked out.

First things first, we like a place that doesn’t have the same bare filament light-bulbs and beaten copper plates, mugs & tankards as the other 93 million new restaurants in town. I love the cosy booths for two that line the wall, I love the plaid-shirt-covered bench seating at the larger tables, I love the fluttering notes strung across from wall to wall and I love the birdcages that swing gently from the ceiling.

I also happen to be a big fan of polite, friendly and personable service which was delivered from each and every member of staff; when the people bringing your food have favourites that they wanna share with you, you better believe I’m gonna listen. Combining an earnest passion for the sort of street food currently circulating around London with a deep love of Southern states USA soul food, the menu slings one dribble-inducing dish after another at you. Some of them you know and some, well you definitely wanna get to them too.

Delivering trans-Atlantic sized portions at very reasonable prices means you need to come here hungry and with your big girl, extra stretchy pants on. A beautiful vintage skillet of Spinach & Artichoke Dip with snappy, deep fried tortilla chips was so comforting and delicious I could have cried with relief when J – generous to the end or maybe just fearful of losing a finger? – graciously allowed me to scrape the creamy dollopy dregs from the bottom of the pan onto the  last of the chips, my fork and yes, my fingers too.

Fried Pickles with Ranch Dressing were piping hot, juicy, crisp and battered to just the right point; fully coated, super gnarly, begging for a ranch bath and kicking ass alongside a frosty pale ale.

If it’s soul food on a plate that you’re looking for, it’s Fried Chicken & Waffles with maple syrup and a sweetly smoked gravy that you need. There might not be many things I share in common with everyone’s favourite Dogg, Snoop, but a love of the bird and the baked goods is it. Light & fluffy with syrup seeping from every golden pouch, in the humble waffle I can confirm that crunchy, spicy chicken has found its soulmate. Forget stuffing, forget avocado, forget pot pies, waffles my friends, waffles are what your chicken should be laying beside, sandwiched next to and standing proudly on.

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While there are commendably lighter options on the menu, the possibility of my going out for Friday night fried chicken and ordering the brown rice salad is, like sunshine on a Bank Holiday weekend, slim to none. Instead, a trio of baby sliders were chosen & devoured, each potato bun stuffed with bacon jam slathered chicken & chin adorning, creamy slicks of mayo.

Batting in at the last round was a portion of some of the biggest chicken wings I’ve ever seen; fresh but fiddly, they were spattered with a creamy garlic-lemon-Parmesan sauce which cut nicely through the richly delicious heaviness of some of the other dishes.

Try as I might – and with two buttons undone, I promise you I did – there was absolutely no room at the inn for dessert but in the interest of feeding back to you dear readers, a wedge of the Crack Pie was taken home for midnight grazing; butter, cream, two types of sugar and an oaty-cookie crust made this bounce-off-the-walls sweet but well worth sharing a forkful or two of.

You know it’s a good shout when you’ve already picked what you’re having on the next visit – FYI, that’d be Sweet Potato Pie topped with marshmallows, tear & share Dipsy Cake and Jalapeno Cheese Biscuits with Apple Butter. Yes the chicken is good here and yes, I would happily come back and eat it again if only to reassure you that it’s still delicious but this Bird boasts a menu of sides & starters I’d be delighted to eat my way through accompanied by some of the awesome sounding cocktails from the mixologist superstars, Soulshakers. Great for a mid-week date or bang on for a weekend group dinner, this is a brilliant little place to get down, get dirty and get soulful at.

And the gold medal for London’s best buttermilk fried chicken is awarded to…

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One of the loveliest things about living in London – along with Southbank sunsets, summery picnics in Greenwich and red-velvet-seated screenings at the Prince Charles – is that there are always so many gorgeous, wintry, festive events to enjoy with friends & family in a warm, cosy, Christmassy blur of mulled wine and Slade.

For the past few years during the run up to Christmas, the skyline of Hyde Park has been dominated by Winter Wonderland’s fairground rides and swiss-style chalets and although there’s no doubt it’s a fun novelty to experience, its growing popularity has resulted in it being exceptionally busy so if you’re after something a little less commercial, your best bet now is to head east to Victoria Park, and the slightly hipper and less mainstream Winterville.

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Along with a legion of & crafts stalls, the absolutely-compulsory-come-December ice rink and an entertaining if slightly deafening wall of death, there were more places to feast your face in than you could shake a glass of eggnog at.

From a hot cider tent and craft beer arena – the mingled scents of incense and alcohol creating estive, hippy buzz in the air – to legendary-in-London street food traders and artisan producers, Winterville offered a refreshing change to the same tired old dishes that get trotted out at similar events and it was here, among rosy-cheeked and bobble-hatted families, couples and groups of friends, that J and I found something completely outstanding…ladies and gentlemen, I present to you Butchies fried buttermilk chicken.

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This, the Clancy Wiggum, was without a doubt one of the most delicious things I’ve eaten in a very long time and quite possibly the most amazing chicken I’ve eaten ever.

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Sandwiched in between two halves of a beautifully golden & softly sweet brioche bun and nestled as comfortably atop chopped lettuce and tomato as your granny on the sofa in front of the Coronation Street omnibus, was a little piece of poultry sent from heaven via E8.

Deep fried in buttermilk batter, this chicken was so light and crispy without a single slick of superfluous grease that you’d be forgiven for doubting whether or not it was actually fried but the bubbly, brown crunch surrounding each succulent bite of chicken reassured you that it was. The avocado was plentiful, creamy & chunky without being mushy, the bacon was salty & crisp and the chipotle mayo added a slight tang and heat to each mouthful. Seriously not sure I can remember LBC – Life Before Chipotle – and whenever I do, it seems a bit sad & tame.

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When I say I could have easily eaten this again immediately, I’m not exaggerating even a little bit. Sharing it with the love of my life was a delightful memory to now have together; it was also exceptionally hard once the first bite was taken. If burgers have besieged London in all their their juicy, meaty, drippy glory over the past year, I’m gonna place a bet that fried chicken will be doing the same in the very near future. I would say it’s a gamble but if it’s Butchies that you’re eating, fear not, it’s less of a gamble and more of a dead cert that you’ll end up every bit as addicted as I now am.

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A bucket list burger that’s worth ticking off – welcome to Patty & Bun…

To the delight and anguish of all starving, early evening commuters across the big smoke, the Evening Standard recently posted an edible bucket list for London; a culinary countdown of places you must visit and dishes you must try in order to fully experience all the gastronomic delights that our beautiful capital city has to offer. Now the fact that London has a million cultures all living within frying, baking or drizzling distance of each other won’t come as any sort of shock to anyone who’s walked down Edgware Road or through Camden Market or around the side streets of Kilburn but some of the suggested dishes posed a challenge even for little, old, eats-everything-she-can-lay-her-hands-on me…milk-fed lambs brain anyone?

No?

A bit beyond your comfort zone?

No problem. Tuck your napkin back into your shirt, pull your chair back into the table, pick up your knife & fork and get on board with some slightly (metaphorically) easier-to-digest suggestions such as shepherd’s pie, egg, ham & peas or a simple grilled cheese sandwich.

For me though, the easiest thing to sway someone into trying a new restaurant is nothing fancier than a damn good burger, Well, unless you’re my mother and then a plate of broccoli will do it every time but for those of us less enthused by those bright green florets than by something juicy, meaty and impossible to eat without a stack of napkins and the acceptance that you will end up with all kinds of deliciousness dribbling down your chin, let’s venture into Patty & Bun and into the only burger on the list…

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