Commercial Street in Shoreditch is having a Renaissance right now. The amazing Gunpowder recently opened doing magical things with Indian flavours, Som Saa is about to crack its doors open this Spring and Absurd Bird has just opened it doors directly across the road from it.
Absurd Bird is the brainchild of Salmia Vellani and they’re looking to take an alternative route from the current burger boom. These guys realise there are some great fried chicken operators in London and they’re looking to highlight their Southern inspired fried chicken in Shoreditch. This first site is slightly off pitch and they’ve done well to wedge their restaurant in between other operators who are passionate about quality food where there’s always a buzz and the clientele is quite eclectic.
The authenticity to Southern inspired fried chicken is shown, given that the menu has been written by an American who has spent a good portion of his career in the deep south of USA. They also smoke their chicken in-house.
The fit out fits in with the absurd – upstairs is very backwaters of the deep South ( I love the little details like binocular lighting used in the two person booths, bird cages etc). I like how they don’t go overboard with chicken motifs and the like all over the restaurant. Downstairs you’ll find a New Orleans inspired bar/speakeasy that isn’t themed – more giving a nod to the bars of the deep south.
The cocktails list has been put together by Giles, Mike and Martin who worked together to make their own moonshine to use across the drinks list. Taps are manned by Signature Brew who also make their Absurd Lager which is a very nice drop and worth trying if you’re into your craft beer. I had a well balanced Absurd Bird Sour with bourbon, fresh lemon juice, cherry liqueur, absinthe and bitters which i could have stuck on through the night if I didn’t fall for the lager like I did.
Diving into the menu we started off with the spinach and artichoke dip with fried tortilla chips. This is a nice cheesy gooey way to ease yourself into the menu and goes down very well with a couple of pre meal cocktails.
My only previous contact with southern biscuits had been with my favourite restaurant ever – Rockwell and Sons in Melbourne, who serve their more dense biscuits on their Weekly Fried Chicken Night with you’d be a fool to miss if you were visiting. Biscuits are very much like scones – just better. Absurd Bird’s Jalapeño cheese biscuits with apple butter are a revelation. Softer than what I had come to expect, I really fell in love with that apple butter, giving it a sweet edge that worked well with the spice.
It’s very easy to over order – and the FOH team did warn us that we may be going to large on the smaller plates and they had concerns we may not make it through to the mains. Obviously we laughed and stuck to our guns.
Little did we know that the chickens are reared for an extra three to four weeks in Fosse Meadows Farm, completely free range and the farmers really care for their stock. This makes the bird a lot bigger and as a result, as the wings or the whole bird hits the table, you get a lot more meat for your chicken dollar than expected.
First up were the smoked garlic parmesan and lemon wings. A giant serve of fat, meaty wings and best shared between two if you wanted to do any damage to the rest of the menu. Not a first date kind of dish, the flavours slathered onto the crusty outing were a delight and completely different in flavour that I have found anywhere else.
I really fell head over heels for the crispy fried buttermilk wings. I like my wings with a proper hard crust. the type of crust that shatters when it matters – and these didn’t disappoint. We teamed them up with Lio’s hot dip and blue cheese dip and both worked well with the chicken.
Waving the white flag means we missed out on trying the sweet potato bake with marshmallows through it – keeping in line with deep south food being very sweet and the Absurdly Hot Fried Chicken was left in the wings for us to try next time.
When inquiring about the desserts that our waitress liked she did warn us that the Crack pie was a sugar-fiend’s wet dream (my words, not hers). Indeed it’s one hell of a good pie with a sugar topping to crack with a spoon, moist filling and perfect crust.
The Dipsy is definitely a staff favourite and many other tables around us had ordered the brioche served piping hot from the oven that’s then torn apart with your hands and dipped into three different accompanying sauces. You definitely need two or more people to finish this one properly otherwise you may get a case of the dessert sweats.
Absurd Bird is absurdly good value when you look at the portion sizes and quality of food that’s coming out of that kitchen. Really take heed of the warnings from staff so that you don’t over order at the beginning of your meal. We didn’t to detrimental effect – that effect being we’re heading back again soon to eat the menu backwards to see how far we get. The idea is for the brand to grow and expand quite quickly beyond London and the UK so if you want to get a first fix head on down to Absurd Bird on Commercial Street.
Contact: Absurd Bird – 54 Commercial Street, London E1 6LT. Twitter.