Amazing Billy and His Tasty Chicks

Originally published in my other blog Panasian Kitchen

We heard about Billy and Chicks via social media and wanted to try it.  We’d heard a lot of good things and as we love southern fried chicken we were very curious about how their chicken tasted.  We also found a Timeout voucher online that pretty much sweetened the deal for us (£5 for 2 pieces of chicken, chips and a drink – absolute steal!).  But if you find the voucher on Timeout, make sure you read the fine print because you can’t use the voucher on Fridays.

BATC mural front of house

So armed with our Timeout vouchers, on a rainy Thursday, we headed to Billy and the Chicks.  If you’re going to Soho Theatre, this is a convenient place for a pre- or post-theatre meal as it’s just around the corner.  But be warned that it is a very popular place for cocktails in the evenings so you have to expect a bit of a crush.  Lunchtimes are quieter as most of the punters tend to take their food away to go back to their offices.  Anyhow, we were seated as soon as we came in (we came at 12 noon and the place was virtually empty).  The staff are lovely and while they don’t hover over you, don’t hesitate to ask your questions because they’re really friendly and they know their food.  We presented our vouchers and were asked what we wanted to drink.  TOP TIP: If you get there early enough (just after 12 noon), you can choose what part of the chicken you want, i.e. breast, wing, thigh, or drumstick, because no one else has ordered and you can have your favourite chicken piece.

Fried chicken galore

The Timeout vouchers are an absolute deal because Billy and the Chicks are very generous with their chips (skin on potato fries that are almost chip shop like, crispy-crunchy on the outside and fluffy on the inside! YUM!).  I would think one serving of chips would be enough to share between 2 people or one very hungry (heavy on the very) person.

The pot of chips

The chicken was amazing.  The spice mix reminded me of how KFC tasted like when I was a kid.  It was very reminiscent of KFC in the late 80s.  The chicken is succulent and the flavour isn’t confined to just the breading and crunchy coating on the skin, it permeates through to the flesh.  When you cut into the chicken, you see how succulent it is because the liquid that comes out isn’t oil but juice…lots of it!  This is quite easily one of the best fried chicken I’ve had in the Big Smoke.

Timeout meal

We also tried the ribs which were okay.  The sweet-sour flavour of the ribs was interesting enough to make it stand out slightly from other pure ribs that you could get from fast food places.  The ribs aren’t mind-blowingly amazing, but they are okay and worth the try.  I loved the tangy-ness of the glaze.

Pressure fried pork ribs in a sweet sticky sauce

The menu is not huge but what they had on there was very complimentary to each other.  I was also quite pleased that they served gravy as a side.  I’m not quite sure why, but gravy doesn’t seem to feature in a lot of places that specialise in American-style fried chicken. I haven’t tried their gravy though.  But judging from the comments coming from the Australian group sitting at the next table, the gravy was really good.  They each ordered their own gravy sides.  They said they didn’t want to share!  That’s for next time…because I am going back. The chicken is really good and I am so looking forward to going back!

Juicy fried chicken

The restaurant space is interesting.  There are a lot of interesting photos everywhere – even a mural of Queen Victoria eating a drumstick!   I would have wanted it to be lit a bit brighter though.  We sat near the large front windows so we could see our food.

God feed the Queen!

I enjoyed my eating experience because apart from the food nostalgia, the music was, for lack of a better description, very cool.  All the music reminded me of the rap and hip hop music that I liked (mostly songs that were in the soundtrack of Save the Last Dance!) when I was growing up.  There is a large DJ booth in the corner which convinces me they take their music seriously!

The DJ and his booth

Most fast food places will want to turn their tables over quickly, but at Billy and the Chicks, we didn’t feel rushed.  It felt like we were allowed to enjoy and savour our food. The staff are friendly and very zen and I absolutely love the small touches like inserting the straw into the soda can tabs so the straw doesn’t float away.  To me that means that they think about the customer and what they can do to make the customer’s eating experience a little bit better.  It’s the little things that matter.

Straws and the soda can tab

If you want really good chicken, the finger-lickin good kind, visit Billy and his delicious chicks! Even without vouchers, I would pay for the food full price, because it is definitely worth it!

Billy and the Chicks, London

Craving Korean comfort food

Alan will be making feijoada tonight so that is an absolute treat and completely comforting.  But I find that because of the weather I am craving a lot of Asian food at the moment.  I am particularly wishing we lived in London so that I can order Korean food from Deliveroo!

I would love, at the moment, to be able to indulge in a large half soy half spicy platter of On The Bab’s yang yeum Korean fried chicken.

yang yeum fried chickenPairing that with their spicy pork buns

OTB Spicy pork buns…and just to be completely stuffed, I’d like to finish it with a warm and comforting bowl of bibimbap!

OTB Bibimbap

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The friendliest fish and chippy on the Soho block!

We’d walked past Poppie’s in Soho several times during our recent trips to London.  The Soho branch is on Old Compton Street and Poppie’s in Soho has taken over what used to be Bobby Chin’s House of Ho.  Whilst the signage is mostly black and white, the bunting strung across the signage makes it very cheerful, and, dare I say it, very British!

My friend Ally was visiting from Singapore and this was the only opportunity we had to meet with her.  I’d asked previously if she’d already had a fish and chippy meal since she arrived in London, fish and chips being quintessentially British, to me anyway.  She said no so I thought it would be good to have fish and chips because it would be a substantial enough meal if we were hungry but light enough because, well, it was fish. While I am partial to the fish and chip shop where I live, there was no way I was going to haul my friend up to Harwich to have just a fish and chip meal and push her back onto the train back to London Town.  It was our first trip to Poppie’s but we’d heard a lot of good things about it online.  It was convenient because it was close to where we wanted to go to in London.

When you turn into Old Compton Street , Poppie’s will be easy to find because it will be hard to miss the bright red Mini parked in front emblazoned with Poppie’s logo.  We popped our head in the door and asked for a table for 3 and we were greeted pleasantly and promptly showed to a booth.  The dining area was bigger than I thought.  Since the shop had a food prep and cooking area and a take away counter separate from the main space, I didn’t expect the space to be comfortable.  I thought that they would’ve tried to stuff as many tables as was possible.  But I was very wrong.  We had enough space to wriggle around very comfortably.  There was a certain charm to the diner/shabby chic decor of the space.

The staff is friendly and cheerful.  My friend thought we were regulars because of how the serving staff interacted with us.  I daresay you won’t find a friendlier group of people in the food service industry!  They were really nice and happy.  Some people might think they might be overly familiar, but it was nice to have friendly service that felt really genuine and welcoming.  The Poppettes, as the servers are known, know their food as well and can answer your questions about food really well.

Our food came out fairly quickly and piping hot.  You knew that the fish was fried to order.  The portion of chips was a great ratio to the regular portion of fish.  The fish was fresh, sweet and cooked to perfection.  The service was great and they looked after us without us feeling like they were forever hovering.  When we finished, they cleared our plates away efficiently but we didn’t feel like they were hurrying us up to free up the table.  We were allowed to sit and chat and finish our drinks.  The bill was also a surprise because it was very reasonable for what we ordered.  Great value for money as well!

I chose to order the cod because cod is always a safe option when eating at an unfamiliar chippy.  But I am definitely going back and ordering rock for my next fish and chip meal at Poppie’s.  It is definitely worth it!  When you’re in Soho, pop into Poppie’s for the best fish and chip meal!  You won’t be disappointed!

Poppie's Soho

Where chicken is not a laughing matter: Absurd Bird

A version of this review was published on TripAdvisor and my other blog Panasian Kitchen.
I haven’t forgotten about my chicken bucket list.  Alan and I have been working our way through the list,  I just haven’t actually sat down to write my thoughts on the visit.  Thankfully I have photos to remind me of the visit.  With my memory, it would’ve have been difficult to write a review!
Absurd Bird is found on 54 Commercial Street, near Spitalfields Market, in London.  The buses go through Commercial Street so the location is commutable.  I’m not too certain about the parking, but I’m sure there is a way to find space for your vehicle.
IMG_4554You come into an interesting space with the bar in front. The seating spaces are interesting. There are interesting booths and long tables with homey upholstered benches. The space is great because one wall is made up of huge glass panels allowing the natural light to come in. The light fixtures are very interesting – gilded bird cages!
The food is definitely no laughing matter.  I’m thankful Mr Hyde sent me a mailshot that featured a discount for Absurd Bird.  It was the prompt Alan and I needed to go pay Absurd Bird a visit!

MrHydecouponAlan ordered the fried chicken sliders with a side of sweet potato fries.  The sliders have the same crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside chicken in them.  Every crunchy bite of the chicken was amazing!

SlidersThe sweet potato fries are yummy with a capital Y.  They were so crispy! I very rarely find crispy sweet potato fries. It was heaven in every crunch!

Crispy sweet potato fries I ordered the chicken and waffles with a side of coleslaw. The yummy sweet-sour coleslaw is more a salad sized serving instead of a side-sized serving and is a perfect side to the chicken.
Chicken and waffles You get 3 crispy on the outside and succulent on the inside pieces of chicken and 3 fluffy pieces of sweet waffle. You also get a small pot of maple syrup and (HURRAH!) a small pot of gravy!
ColeslawIt is excellent value for money and what we ordered was delicious! While we ordered on main meal and side each, I think what we ordered would have fed 4 people. The servings are generous and they are certainly worth every penny you pay for.

We didn’t order any alcoholic drinks but they serve lagers and cocktails I think.  If you’re attempting to limit the amount of calories and keep hydration simple, you can opt to just have tap water for the table.  They’re happy to do that for you as well.

Tap waterThe staff are amazing and very attentive without being helicopter servers (i.e. they don’t hover!)!  I found it refreshing that they knew their product and our conversations with them were natural and they were very helpful with suggestions.  I loved it that we got a chance to relax and enjoy the food that we ordered.

Generous portionsI am definitely going back for more of their chicken and waffles!

A gem off the beaten path: Coleman Coffee Roasters

Coleman Coffee Roasters frontWe came across this lovely café quite by accident.  We were exploring Lower Marsh and the rain started to come down quite heavily.  We were also looking for a place to have breakfast because our usual cheap eat favourite Marie’s on the same street was closed.

We took shelter and the smell of coffee  wafting from the beautifully gleaming vintage espresso machine was amazing!  We were greeted with a really welcome “Hello guys!” so we went further in and looked at the menu.  We were intending to be polite and just have coffee and possibly cake.  But they served Staffordshire oatcakes or “oaties” and there was quite a choice from sweet to savoury fillings for the oat pancakes.  We’d never had oaties before so our curiousity was piqued!  We chose to have bacon and stewed tomatoes.  The aroma of cooking bacon was amazing, and boy were the oaties oh-so-fabulously good!  It rated an “oh-my-God-this-is-amazing!” with my mouth full of oatie-bacon-tomato goodness!  The oaties were light but surprisingly filling.  I expected to feel full and bloated after, but I didn’t.  It was heaven on a plate.

oaties!Now. let’s get to the lovely brew!  I opted for drip coffee because it’s what I do when trying out a new coffee place (my better-safe-than-sorry coffee measure).  I was offered a choice between the Guatemalan and another blend (I think it was Costa Rican blend) and I chose the Guatemalan.  It was very nostalgic for me because it was served on a Duralex looking cup, which reminded me so much of the French coffee cups that my father favoured.  At first I was worried because the drip coffee looked light and watery.  But oh no, was I VERY wrong!  The coffee was rich, comforting and oh-so-flavourful.

Mmmm coffee!The staff are lovely, very friendly, so very helpful and they know their products.  They’re happy to explain what they sell, what you’re options are and they give you lovely recommendations.  They also love what they’re selling.  That’s key!

This isn’t quite on the main road from Waterloo Station, but this is definitely worth a visit.  The space is small and there are only a few seats, but that’s part of the charm.  If you have the opportunity to wander around Lower Marsh, pay the lovely folks at Coleman Coffee Roasters a visit.  It is DEFINITELY worth it!

Coffee and oaties!

BIRD is not the word

Given the choice between beef, poultry, pork and seafood, I would choose poultry over pork, then seafood then beef.  Beef is probably the best source of protein, but I would chicken over most meats any day.

In the last quarter of 2014, I wrote about my Chicken Bucket List.  It was a list of up-and-coming places to eat that specialised in chicken that I wanted to try (the London food scene is alive, well, vibrant and varied!).  I must admit, the underlying criteria was that the places needed to serve some sort of Southern fried chicken-style dish.

It was their claim that they “served the best free range fried chicken you’ve ever tasted” that drew me to wanting to try their food.  I mean it’s a very brave and bold claim certainly.  The people at Bird must trust their food that much to make that sweeping generalisation.

I went to the Shoreditch restaurant and got there fairly early (I had misjudged how quick it was to walk from Liverpool Street station to the Shoreditch location – clearly I did walk faster than I thought).  So anyway, I was cool with having to wait outside and sit on the benches situated outside the restaurant.  It was fine.  Besides, Shoreditch is a very interesting place and there will always be something to see.

Bird ShoreditchSo when the restaurant finally opened (nearly 45 minutes later than what was on the doors), my tummy was rumbling excitedly.  I love Southern fried chicken, and while I cannot claim to be an expert, my Spit and Roast-inspired buttermilk fried chicken is really good.  Bird was one of the very few places at the time that served chicken and waffles.  I was hoping to get gravy and maple syrup.

More Bird spaceThe space was okay.  Nothing too styled, it was clean and not cramped, if a little dimly lit (it was located right next to a bridge, almost under it, so I wasn’t expecting a space awash with light!).  The decor was kitschy but cute, with framed caricatures of chickens.

Bird SpaceThe staff were nice enough, seating us in one of the table-chairs-banquette spaces that was nearer the Bird doughnut hatch, on the left side of the restaurant.  It was quiet and I loved the fact that it was the quieter side of the room.  I was ready for a relatively spiritual experience.  After all, we were talking about chicken and waffles here!  So orders (from slightly smudged menus) were taken and I ordered what I came to order: fried chicken and waffles (I was disappointed that it didn’t come with gravy as I’d wished, but that was my fault because I didn’t check out the menu online before I went.  They didn’t have any gravy on the menu).

Bird menuThe service was friendly and efficient and soon, plates of chicken pieces and fresh waffles were slide in front of us.  I’m not sure whether it was just that it was the early hour or if it was just the location.  But my chicken looked wrong.  I know that they battered their chicken and they didn’t bread it, but I found it a bit awkward that the chicken piece I was given had a scaly bit exposed – don’t get me wrong, it didn’t affect the flavour, it was just not pleasant to see.  We do eat with our eyes as well.

It went downhill from there.  I visited their website that evening and it does say that their chicken isn’t Southern fried chicken.  It’s fried chicken.  Granted it is fried, but you do get succulent fried chicken.  My chicken was dry and overdone, painfully so.  I’m not too certain how the chicken is prepared, whether it’s brined or marinated in buttermilk, but my piece of chicken wasn’t battered very well.  The batter had a bitter aftertaste, probably signalling that it had been left a little too long in oil that was a little too hot.  Mind you, I’ve incinerated enough chicken so I wasn’t too fussed so much.  It was just that the chicken was so dry that it was quite a struggle to adequately make a dent in the two pieces of chicken that my two waffles were served with.

Bird chicken and wafflesThe waffles were really nice, if a little on the light and thin side.  I loved that it was more savoury than sweet with the addition of spring onions.  Usually the waffles, in my humble opinion, provides the sweet element, to the sweet-salty flavour combination (the salty element provided by the chicken).  It was a refreshing change to have a properly savoury waffle.  It was great to be able to drench it in proper maple syrup.  I must say that I would probably happier just having the savoury waffles and the maple syrup instead.  But the restaurant is meant to specialise in poultry (its name is Bird).

Bird wafflesI realise that everyone has their opinions and food is a relatively subjective experience.  But I was disappointed.  It wasn’t the chicken experience I was expecting, and for me, it wasn’t the best free range fried chicken experience.  I probably won’t go back to any of the other Bird locations.

Sadly, for me, BIRD was NOT the word.

Hudson New York Bar and Kitchen, Colchester

I’m not much of a beef eater so I hardly order steaks.  If I do order anything made from beef, it would probably either a salt beef sandwich or pastrami (the more kosher, the better!).  So imagine my delight when I found out you could get a salt beef bagel from an American-inspired bar in Colchester!

I read through the menu and wondered what the food would be like.  It looked promising with club sandwiches, salt beef bagels and hotdogs on offer.  With a claim that they served fabulous Atlantic cuisine and that they were inspired by downtown Manhattan, I was looking forward to tucking into my salt beef bagel.

Well, I’ve had my salt beef bagel and I was a tiny bit underwhelmed.  The salt beef was a tad on the dry side but I guess I’ve been spoiled by the Bell & Brisket and Monty’s Deli because they made REALLY good salt beef from scratch and each sandwich would be prepared as ordered from a batch that was probably made the same day.  The space was amazing and it was big and airy.  But the concept confused me a little bit because it felt like I was walking into a southern restaurant instead of a Manhattan bar.

Will I be going back to Hudson?  I’m not sure.  Maybe their other offerings are okay, they may even be really good.  But it’s quite hard to get a salt beef sandwich wrong — if you have great salt beef to begin with.  Don’t get me wrong, the food looked okay and the coleslaw and fries that came with it were really nice.  I’m just really picky about my salt beef.  And unfortunately for them, I wasn’t too impressed.

Hudson's salt beef bagel