Chick’n’Sours has been on our hit list for the past 3 weeks since it opened its doors to the public. It’s in an up and coming area high up on the Kingsland Road and perched on the doorstep of the new Hagerstown Overground giving us easier access than ever to get repeated sessions in over the next few months. The space is small but the waitlist is long and if you don’t get online and score yourself a table then you might be disappointed when you show up to a fully booked restaurant.
I have only been back in London for the past few weeks but everyone here has jumped on the trumped up fried chicken wagon and to set yourself apart you really need to be doing something right. I hate the word ‘concept’ in the restaurant business but a few players like Bao and Chick’n’Sours are taking the route of mastering one type of dish and building upon it to make a very tight menu that can do wonders. It’s been built by pop up pioneer Carl Clarke – who knows what to do with a small space and limited menu.
As it says on the packet – it’s all about the chicken and sours. We stuck our noses into their House Sour (6) to start things off – a mix of gin, sugar, lemon, raspberry and chilli vinegar, vermouth, sour and it weirdly all came together. It also gave us a taste of what was to come. This may well be a fried chicken joint when it comes down to it but the hint of sweet, tart and space in the house drink was going to be a perfect match.
The menu is broken down into Beginnings, Fried Chicken, Tenders and Buns which we started with a few dishes from the former list – scoring a double of hot disco wings (5.5) and Szechuan aubergine (5.5) to get the mouth watering. The wings were a generous size (6 in all) and while the sauce won’t knock you off your chair I think that was the point – it’s enough that when you bring the first wing up to your mouth the kick hits the back of your throat. As this happens to each of your party you all nod to each other in appreciation.
Aubergine has been acknowledged as one of the most difficult vegetables to get right – but here they do. The light, crispy batter (this will become a theme) mixed with Asian herbs and a sweet sause for its base showcased it in perfect fashion.
Then cometh the behemoth.
We had four peeps and since we were sharing everything I ordered two Buns for us to half and scoff. Then cometh the behemoth. The burger (10) showed up with a juicy Korean fried thigh, gochujang mayo, chilli vinegar and crunchy slaw. The brioche bun held together like a champ – unlike one I had last week where it deflated in my hand as soon as fingers made contact.
The first bite was heaven and we all looked at each other when we realised the crispy batter was exactly that – it hadn’t started to get soggy with the addition of the sauces, slaw and warm bun. Dion’t get me started but this is my burger of the year for 2015 so far… It’s the way it shatters that matters!
Time for a reup on the sours so next in line was the Negroni Sour (6) made up of campari, vermouth, rosewater and lemon. Nicely balanced but would knock a few ice cubes out next time.
Two serves of the fried chicken and as you would expect, you put the house fried chicken and the guest chicken up against each other to se which reigns supreme. The House Fry (8) with seaweed crack seasoning and picked watermelon was decent enough but I think our year living in SE Asia has given us a taste for the spicer things in life.
Which is why the Guest Fry (10) with its chilli jam, crispy shallots, Thai basil, mint and spring onion was given the thumbs up by all around the table. It’s what I would expect Chin Chin in Melbourne to be doing if they ever went down the fried chicken route.
To bulk out the meal we chose the pickled watermelon, peanut and coriander salad, a side of fries and the interesting yam bean ‘slaw and miso mayo. All worked superbly well together and would then try a few of the other options on my next visit.
To finish off we went with the supremely British dessert (and the only one on the menu – soft serve ice cream with weetabix and toasted weetabix crunch. Why the English add an extra syllable to Weetbix is beyond me but that argument is for another time… It hit the mark but I’m making the suggestion that Chick’n’Sours should have an off-menu dessert with soft serve and excess crispy chicken batter crumbs because its just that good.
Chick’n’Sours hit all the right marks for a new opening that will have people coming back in droves. It’s why there was a line of people all willing to wait for 15 mins with a glass of sparkling in their hand at the doorway rather than miss out. The service was spectacular, the guys know their food and drink and are more than happy to talk you though the 4 stages of getting the chicken to perfection. It’s the most ‘Melbourne’ meal we’ve had since we’ve touched back down, where everything happened when it was supposed to (it’s harder than you would think). Would I be back? Hell Yes.