Eat Here: FOWL, St. James’sBy Jake Hawkes
A question: do you like chicken?
A follow-up question: how much do you like chicken?
You’ll need to have answered ‘yes’ and ‘a lot’ to those questions to fully appreciate FOWL, the new pop-up chicken restaurant from the team at buzzy restaurant darlings Fallow, a place which garnered attention due to its sustainable approach to cooking. At Fallow, mushrooms are grown in-house and cheaper cuts are utilised just as well as the classics. At FOWL, this is taken even further, for better or for worse.
Not only does nearly every item on the menu contain chicken, including the profiteroles (yes, really), but the chicken corn dog comes attached to a foot, while the pie comes complete with a chicken’s head poking out of the top. It’s not for the faint of heart – or stomach – but in a world where people are more and more divorced from where their food actually comes from, it’s a refreshingly bold choice.
Meaty desserts and surprise beaks aren’t enough to carry a restaurant though, and luckily the team at FOWL know this. High-welfare ingredients and creative cooking mean that the food isn’t just unique, it’s delicious.
The ‘snacks’, basically FOWL’s take on starters, are the most chicken-free zone aside from the (mercifully meat-free) drinks menu. Crumbly, ever-so-slightly-sweet cornbread comes with a hefty dollop of chicken-infused butter on the side, but the perfectly seasoned corn coblets are completely plant-based, just in case an extremely wayward vegan somehow ends up eating at a restaurant which is almost exclusively dedicated to bird butchery.
Back in the world of poultry, the mains are surprisingly varied. Triple-crisped hot wings come in a takeaway-style cardboard box with a whirl of creamy sriracha on the side. The spice level is a bit tame, but the sheer level of crunch can’t be faulted, with each wing managing to walk the tightrope between sauce and batter without collapsing into a soggy mess.
For our money, the understated star of the show is the confit chicken oyster rice. It’s perhaps the lightest of the mains, but the rice is fluffy, the chicken gravy is rich and saucy, and the chicken chunks are big and meaty. It’s a masterclass in balance.
Onto the Instagrammable limbs and heads – both courtesy of guest chef Pierre Koffman. The chicken corn dog is junk food elevated to high art. You’ll feel like you’re due a coronary by the time you’ve finished it, but you still won’t be able to help yourself from wolfing it down at speed. Just remember not to actually eat the taloned poultry leg at the end.
The ‘Le Grand Coq’ pie doesn’t fare quite so well. In isolation, each ingredient is perfect – the pastry is flaky, the gravy is rich, and the filling has so many different parts of chicken in it that it’s often hard to know what delicious morsel you’re eating. Taken as a whole though, it’s just a bit too rich, even for two people. You’ll want to order the house slaw on the side to damp down the sweats that come on about halfway through.
To finish, the chicken skin profiterole. It’s a well-made dish that’s up there with some of the best desserts we’ve had recently – if you manage to avoid thinking about how odd it is to be eating chicken and ice cream on the same spoon. It’s impressive to have incorporated meat into a profiterole without ruining the experience, but we found ourselves asking – did there really need to be chicken in everything? Still, the plate was cleared and the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
FOWL won’t be for everyone. If the decapitated chicken turns your stomach, stay well away. But as an experimental pop-up and a chance to see what good chefs can do when they push themselves to use one animal in as many ways as they can, it’s a great experience. One thing we will say: we’ll be eating a lot of salad for a while – and maybe not too much chicken.
Norris St, St. James’s Market, SW1Y 4RJ