Fine Dining: Chick-o-Land (Extra)
Decidedly average actor Donnie Wahlberg once rather rudely suggested that we cosmopolitan European types were unable to produce fried chicken good enough to satisfy his bloated American belly. “The food […]
Decidedly average actor Donnie Wahlberg once rather rudely suggested that we cosmopolitan European types were unable to produce fried chicken good enough to satisfy his bloated American belly. “The food in Europe is pretty disappointing. I like fried chicken. But other than that Europe is great.” He allegedly said before going off and making yet another obtuse, tasteless gorefest. He’s wrong. British cuisine is a melting pot of fatty flavours, and in certain cities and restaurants fried chicken floats to the surface, begging to be devoured, finger grease and all. Chick-o-land (Extra) in the charming suburb of Portswood has a reputation for delivering winged gold, given the right alcohol fuelled context.
The décor at Chick-o-Land (Extra) draws inspiration from swimming pool changing rooms and is a triumph of pure, unpretentious functionality. The intimate dining room is cleverly expanded using some of the oldest tricks in the Hollandaise-sauce-stained book of restaurant design: glass and mirrors. They have the desired effect, although the atmosphere of the room is marred by distracting, hard, wipe-down plastic seating. This might be an ironic post-modern nod toward the greasy canteens of our schooldays, but it simply made me feel like I was in a cheap fast food joint.
The kitchen has a reputation for efficiency. You can see the chefs working like madmen behind the counter in a cloud of steam and spitting oil, sweat pouring down their faces as they hack kebabs and throw chips in fryers. Food tastes better when blood has been spilt, both by the creator and by the ingredients. I like dynamism whilst I’m eating, and behind the scenes bustle certainly provides this.
For my starter I had a small portion of onion rings which were magnificent, gently deep fried until they scalded the tongue and ruined the breath. It’s difficult to get onion rings right: too much batter smothers the flavour, too little and they will be flaccid, running the risk of disintegration. The worst thing that can happen is the onion sliding out of the batter case because there’s no way to amend that situation, you just have to accept that one mouthful will be bland, the next sour. These stayed intact though, and had ideal flavour and texture.
Reasonable Cabaret is provided on most evenings, although performances only start during the fourth sitting which is around midnight. When I was there the show was an intriguing, humourous tale of orange faced love and betrayal which culminated with the dramatic ejection of two semi-naked actresses by an irate maître d’. I think one of them had lost her phone or boyfriend or dignity or something.
Limited by a rather unsurprising menu, for my main I opted for poulet frit avec des frites, the signature dish of the establishment. The chips were limp and starchy, let down by an unforgivably short time in the fryer. The chicken, so often a topic of contention, was fairly decent. Tender, but lacking in meat was my verdict. The beauty of Chick-o-land (Extra) is that if diners visit one of the delightful nearby wine bars beforehand they will probably be able to revisit their meal a few hours later if they are lucky. The distinctive aftertaste of Chick-o-Land (Extra) remains in the mouth long into the following day.