Whyte & Brown
Kingly Court, London, W1B 5PW (map)
If you like everything chicken related, this is the place for you. Whyte & Brown describe themselves as “a restaurant celebrating the delicious diversity of free-range Chicken and Eggs”. Proudly displaying their Free Range chicken credentials on their menu this looks very different from the other chicken-centric venues which have opened recently in London.
Kingly Court is a little oasis of bars and restaurants hidden just off the tourist thoroughfare of Carnaby Street. The ground floor is already home to Sacred Cafe, a C’est Ici plus more substantial offerings from Wright Brothers and the Alan Yau’s Noodle Bar, Cha Cha Moon.
The outdoor seating area is quite attractive and an excellent size (approx 30). They were busy shoo-ing off diners from their nearby coffee stores when I arrived on opening day. Since this is a pedestrianised area, you won’t have exhaust fumes smoking your meal. The al fresco tables are currently arranged for 26 diners (3 x tables for 2, 3 x tables for 4, 1 x table for 8). Chatting to the lady outside she says they have a further 30 covers inside plus 90 covers upstairs, which makes the entire restaurant a 148 cover venue… much larger it looks.
The selling point for diners is their use of free range chicken. Their menu proudly displays their commitment to the free range cause. Predictably, the menu is all about ‘chicken & eggs’ but a little disorientating as they try to shoehorn an ampersand in the title of every section. For example, “Pick & Peck”, “Start & Share” and “Feed & Feast”, not impossible to decipher, but takes a little thinking and adds a bit of character to the venue.
In the ‘”Pick & Peck” Section I order “Crisp Chicken Shards” which is described as “Slow-baked crispy chicken skin with W&B signature seasoning” and the Fried Chilli Broad Beans “Crunchy nutty & a little spicy with a dusting of chilli salt. Also known as habas or favas”. The beans are nice and excellent dried snack for beer drinking, but can be found elsewhere. However, the chicken skins are quite unique, almost like a poultry version of pork crackling. Crispy yet still a little chewy, excellent.
From the “Start & Share” section I chose the waiter recommended “Harissa Hot Wings” (“Baked chilli chicken wings served with caramelised orange wedges, coriander & minty yoghurt dressing.) I find that neither hot wings nor harissa based dishes are generally made hot enough in the UK. However, this was an exception. The chicken had a real fiery kick. The staff were keen to make sure I knew the ‘technique’ to eating these. Just like a tequila shot I was instructed to follow each portion of the wings with the wedges of caramalised fruit! A great flavour combo and supplied with enough yogurt to balance out the fieriness. I usually prefer wings fried, but this baked version is a fantastic exception.
From the “Feed & Feast” section I had the “Lemon Leek Risotto Scotch Egg” (“Soft-boiled egg nestled within luscious herbaceous risotto ball, perched on wilted spinich with chive & lemon butter sauce). This was a little bit of a let down as crumb coating of the risotto ball was a little on the chewy side and the risotto itself a little plain. I felt that it could have done with some more seasoning. The dish does look amazing, like a giant Scotch egg. To their credit, they were very keen on taking feedback so they brought me salt and the General Manager said she would “feed that back to the chef”.
Chatting to Fiona, one of the co-owners, I confusingly discover that none of the owners are actually named ‘Whyte’ or ‘Brown’. This is their first venue, and they have had some private ‘friends and family’ nights over the weekend but this is their first actual day of business. The staff seem to be well organised orchestrated by General Manager, Danni, ex-Carluccio. One of the waiters is from the Flat P Bar (the recently closed sister venue of excellent molecular mixology bar ‘Purl‘ and ‘Worship Street Whistling Shop‘) so they shouldn’t be short of cocktail knowledge.
Impressively, the drinks menu has been created by London Bartender/Bar-Consultant Ryan Chetiyawardana (who also spent time at Worship Street Whistling Shop albeit several years ago. I didn’t try a cocktail but they have definitely put effort into their beverage selection. In the “BOTTLE & DRAUGHT” section they announce “Our free-range thinking applies liberally to our choice of beers. We favour independent specialists, artisans & pioneers”. I was pleasantly surprised to see no signs of mass market “Budweiser” or “Fosters” on the menu, instead craft beers featured on the list. One of the “Specials” today is the Moor Company ‘Rypa’ in collaboration with Beavertown which comes in a 660ml bottle. Danni proudly tells me that she was at the launch which was just two weeks ago.
When I hear the term ‘chicken restaurant’ I immediately think of rotisserie or fried chicken specialists such as ‘Chicken Shop‘, ‘Chooks‘, ‘Wishbone‘ or the new ‘Cookhouse Joe‘ nearby. However Whyte & Brown have a more subtle, dare I say, ‘refined’ offering. The staff performed well for a team on their first full day of service. The food had good highlights and they were keen to get feedback so I’m sure this will be worth a return visit!
If you visit, let me know your thoughts, would love to see more feedback.
Note: Whyte & Brown officially opens on Fri 12th July 2013. This is a preview of the first day of their soft launch on Tue 09th July.