{18/07/2012}   Menu: roast chicken, roast chicken or roast chicken?

Someone, a genius in my eyes, is about to open a restaurant in London that only serves spit roast chicken (with a limited choice of accompaniments).  The more I think about this, the more I salivate and think it’s a great idea.  It helps that I love roast chicken and that I dislike massive menus as they encourage my indecision.

I have read Anthony Bourdain’s “Kitchen Confidential” with wonder, shock, disgust and intrigue, not least because he is disparaging about diners who choose chicken dishes off a menu.  As I recall, he considers such people boring for he does not rate chicken.  Yes, a chicken breast cooked without seasoning is bland and pointless, but chicken absorbs flavours and can be magiced into something wonderful: coq au vin, yakitori, chicken korma, chicken kiev, chicken soup, chicken satay, chicken pie, chicken liver pate and juicy roast chicken with a crispy skin.  I am salivating at the mere thought of all these chicken wonders!

To think, I could fancy roast chicken and go to a restaurant that serves only roast chicken.  At the risk of overkill: genius, absolutely genius.

As for the minimal menu element, that too is genius.  I hate long menus.  Of course it’s good to have choices but it makes it more difficult to decide.  Also, a restaurant cannot possibly have that many fresh ingredients in its kitchen to make all dishes, or at least for them not to be glorified ready meals.  For example, I went to a small restaurant with a big menu.  Bearing in mind this was a restaurant in a seaside town, my friend opted for the selection of fried fish.  The larger chunks of fish were frozen in the centre.  One of the many reasons this riled me was that we had gone to eat out (as opposed to having an emergency pit stop to refuel) and to justify the cost of eating out, I expect there to be dishes I wouldn’t or couldn’t make at home and, as I would never use a ready meal or even a microwave, a premises-made dish.

Two of my favourite restaurants, The Sportsman (Seasalter, Kent) and The Granville (the former’s sister restaurant, near Canterbury, Kent), have daily (probably weekly) menu boards which reflect what they’ve got fresh that day.  There are only four or five options for each course and it is apparent they are locally sourced and freshly made.  It’s so much easier choosing from a limited selection.  There was once nothing that particularly appealed as a main so I decided to try something I’d never had before, ray.  As it happened, I didn’t particularly like it but I had often wondered what it would be like and, as it was well cooked and came with interesting sides, I felt confident I would not need to try it again.  Mind you, I’m describing all this as a novelty when for a vegetarian, the one-option menu is more of a reality!

Back to the roast chicken.  For anyone interested, it’s called Chicken Shop, it opens in August and is around Kentish Town at 53-79 Highgate Road, NW5.  Apparently the chicken will be marinated for 24 hours, steamed then finished off – my mouth really is watering – over a wood-flamed spit roast.  Can you imagine how amazing that restaurant will smell?!  Your menu choices are the size of the chicken and which of, I believe, four sides you want with it (salad and chip based).  Genius.


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