‘Thwack, thwack, thwack.” This is the sound that keeps interjecting the conversation between my girlfriend and me, as the butcher in front of us chops whole chickens into quarters.
I am at Chicken Shop the latest restaurant to try to update the classic high-street takeaway of chicken and chips.
The fact that I found this place at all owes everything to my girlfriend being able to spot a Chicken Shop bag hanging over a doorknob on the Highgate Road.
Once inside it becomes obvious that we are not the only ones to spot the bag as the place is packed and we are told that a 45-minute wait is to be expected. We decline the wonderfully polite option of going elsewhere and waiting for a phone call to bring us back and decide to wait with a pint of Camden Ale and a glass of traditional lemonade.
Before we even have time to count how many clientele are wearing thick-rimmed glasses – it appears popular with people who work in the media - we were told that a space was ready, at the front counter.
This is where we encounter the butcher chopping away as several free-range chickens roast behind him. From this vantage point we get to see the simplicity of the operation, as once the chicken is quartered it is chucked on a plate with a sprinkling of salt added and two lemon wedges placed on the side.
In the 10 minutes it took us to get a seat we had already decided our order, as much like a famous Monty Python sketch, the choice is limited.
We had heard that the servings were generous – and they very much are - so we opted to share half a chicken and a serving of crinkle-cut chips.
The service was as fast as the butcher and we were soon chomping on the avalanche of food in front of us.
The chicken is the type of chicken you would travel miles for, with a crispy skin and a tender texture, the chips likewise. If this is too bland for some tastes then there are also a choice of four sauces to add more variety; ketchup, garlic butter, hot sauce and smoky sauce.
We then decided on dessert and plumped for the apple pie and ice cream. The generosity of the restaurant even extends to allowing customers to choose the size of their portion. We went large and were not disappointed, as the Chicken Shop must have attended a special workshop on crispiness, because the pastry was perfectly crisp, just like the chicken and chips.
I perused the restaurant’s wooden benches and fifties rockabilly vibe as my girlfriend finished off the apple pie. At the end of the meal I even checked out the toilets – lovely, since you asked - and came back to see my girlfriend wiping her dress with a napkin. The splattering’s of the butcher’s chopper had caught her. ”Never mind,” I said “I will lick it off when I get home.” It really is that lovely.
A shared meal for two with drinks and service costs about £25. 79 Highgate Road.