Wednesday 2 July 2014

Bird, Shoreditch

Clearly there are some aspects of owning (albeit temporarily, more on that later) a fancy SLR camera that I'm yet to get used to. There I was at Bird, yet another new chicken place in Shoreditch, snapping happily away, artfully arranging my dinner and ensuring we were sat in the best-lit table in the restaurant for the best possible results, only to finally get back home and discover I'd forgotten to put the memory card in. And I'd only just stopped getting the smug feeling for remembering to bring out the camera itself.

So you'll have to use your imagination for much of this post, although anyone who's ever eaten at one of these new-wave chicken joints (Wishbone, Chicken Shop, Chooks, Clutch, Clockjack Oven, etc ad infinitum) should know pretty much what to expect. The decor is colourful and stripped back - diner-style, with an open kitchen at one end and exposed brick walls. The menu consists of little other than chicken and sides, which is fair enough, but they also try their hand at the Los Angeles favourite chicken & waffles, and they have a decently priced cocktail list and a couple of local craft beers. It is, of course, entirely derivative but whether or not there are a million other places just like it is the kind only jaded bloggers like me worry about. The question for everyone else is, is the food any good?

First, the good news. Bird's Korean chicken is very nice, a crisp and bubbly skin encasing moist white flesh and at least as good as the offering from On The Bab around the corner, and On The Bab have the advantage of actually being Korean. Buffalo wings were slightly less impressive - they'd used the same batter-style coating as for the larger pieces, meaning there was quite a high crunch to flesh ratio - but the glaze, while not authentic Frank's Red Hot (it was orange, for a start) did at least taste hot and vinegary. A horrid, thin "blue cheese" dip looking and tasting like month-old milk did nothing but make me think of the lovely chunky spring-onion-spiked versions from MeatLiquor or Orange Buffalo, though.

Fries, though. Fries were where things took a turn for the disastrous. At first, we thought they'd dipped them in squid ink or some kind of dark seasoning, but on closer inspection it turned out they all - and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say every single chip in the entire portion - were horribly discoloured, pock-marked and blemished, cut from potatoes that either should have been prepared a lot better or rejected entirely. After a few minutes gingerly eating our way around the black/green bits we mentioned to the waitress that most of them were inedible. Her reaction suggested it wasn't the first time anyone had suggested it to her, but she neither apologised nor took them off the bill.

So while there are certainly things to enjoy at Bird if you look hard enough, it's hard to feel too positive towards anywhere serving food so obviously badly prepared (if not literally toxic - the green bits in potatoes can make you very ill indeed) and not in the least bit concerned about doing so. It's lazy. And it's laziness that seems to inform everything about the place, from the copycat decor to the identikit drinks list. Sure, there are places doing this kind of thing worse - it is, despite everything, at least better than Clutch up the road but then so is the Ebola virus so that's hardly a recommendation - but if the height of your aspiration is just to make money off trendspotting, why should anyone give a shit if you succeed or fail?

Anyway there it is, and there it will probably stay for now given Shoreditch's seemingly infinite capacity for mediocre chicken restaurants. Perhaps I'm just annoyed that my last post whilst still in posession of a nice camera turned out to be such a dud - yes, Olympus have asked for it back now, so it'll be murky shots of mystery meat from my iPhone5 until any other potential sponsors want to step forward (hint hint). Perhaps I need to stop worrying about the desperate lack of ambition from a good chunk of London's restaurateurs and just get on with my life. Yes, tell you what, I'll do that.


Bird on Urbanspoon


Gavin said...

Not much of a recommendation for "your" camera if it doesn't even point out that the memory card is missing.

What makes a roast chicken Korean?

Andrew said...

You may have just been unlucky and visited when they had a bad bunch of potatoes. They were fine when we went:;63439261-396B-4492-AF84-7F7BF09770A7

The chicken waffle burger was huge:;0479C9AF-0A2E-4DBD-8ED3-C99408E12213

Anonymous said...

Haaa - These wings are cooked in Franks Sauce! I have travelled the US eating wings and these are great. You forgot to mention the chciken is free-range! is Wishbone etc?

Your comments about the design are laughable read what Creative review say...

Chris Pople said...

Gavin: Your guess is as good as mine. They're always bright red. Something to do with the spicing I suppose.

Andrew: They do look fine, but someone else on Twitter on Monday said they'd had brown/green chips too, so it definitely wasn't a one-off.

Anon: OK, perhaps they were Frank's after all, my mistake. They were just VERY orange, like they'd been cut with something other than butter. And yes I'm sure their chicken is free range, I had no problem with the quality of the chicken.

But I'm betting Creative Review didn't order the chips.

Anonymous said...

Isn't the place called ''BIRD''? why are you babbling on about fries for 30 minutes?

If they were called "CHIPS" fair enough but you mentioned the ''nice'' chicken once then drabbled on about the fries for so long it seems you have a vendetta out (bitter much)


Anonymous said...

Does anyone actually take advice from these poorly written blogs by wannabe foodies? They seem to get it so wrong most of the time.
I've been to Bird more than a few times and everytime the food has been delicious, the chicken is perfectly cooked and has just the right amount of crunch, this alongside the varied selection of dips and glaze its what keeps me coming back for more. Great location and friendly staff too, personally I think this makes a change from the endless burger diners spread around East London.

Anonymous said...

Strange that someone would argue that no one takes advice from blogs then goes on a PR driven defence of the place. A varied selection of dips and glaze is always high on my must haves.

Chris Pople said...

Anon1: The chicken, at least the chicken I tried, was very nice. But the fries weren't just bad, they were toxic, as in they could have actually damaged someone. And not only did our waitress not seem bothered at all by this when we mentioned it, she still charged us! So I do think it was worth "babbing" on about. If my vendetta is to prevent people being poisoned, then hands-up, I have a vendetta.

Anon2: Did you copy all of that text from the press release? Seriously, if you're going to shill your mate's/bosses/husband's restaurant, you're going to have to work on making it sound a little more believable. As for the 'does anyone actually take advice', I'm the 8th most trusted restaurant critic in the UK. So the answer to that is yes, sorry to say.

Alicia Foodycat said...

I do love the anonymous cohort. So much faceless butthurt.

Anonymous said...

Clearly a single virgin.

Chris Pople said...

Anon: I think I've won this one haven't I? Why don't you leave the rational arguments to me, and I'll leave the toxic fries to you.

Anonymous said...

Annoying when I realise I left the memory card in the P.C. and I am on the remotest beach in the UK. Looking at what not, through a camera with only 4 pic spaces.
Too much Chicken, I am right off hand cut chips, I like my mums, and the rest can be machine /whatever cut. I had crinkle cut at Shake Shack, superb first time, next visit was rubbish. Those chips were proper nasty! I realised I have never been in Nandos , while reading Eat like a girl, Piri Piri post.
Crikey, the bloke above is having a go. He's worse than me.
Thanks for pointing us away from this chicken place. We rely on blogs like Cheese and biscuits, as we only hit London three times a year. I don’t always agree with you i.e. Trishna. But they certainly help. Good luck with the camera, your photos at late have been very good.
Speaking of awful coffee Caffeine has a piece called”why do restaurants serve such awful coffee”.

Anonymous said...

Whoa! Does this guy need a hug or what? I may use "Toxic Fries" as the name of my next band. Sounds like there is pretty good chicken though and if you "look hard enough", (which I guess means almost everywhere on the menu??) you will find it. 4/10 for "toxic" fries (are the green bits really that bad...I usually feed them to my son?) seems unreasonable, given chicken is the king in this place. What I will concede, my hug-needing friend, is that should not have been made to pay for those fries. And, since you drink negronis, you can't be all that bad...although I recommend more negronis and less complaining.

Anonymous said...

Fee fi fo fum I smell the blood of a PR-man.

Anonymous said...

It's like that time I went to Patty & Bun. They shat in my milkshake, but to be fair Burgers are king there - I shouldn't be so petty to nitpick and demand good quality sides.

Not a PR man said...

Eight most trusted food critic? Cor.

I didn't know that. Did you ever mention it before?

Anonymous said...

A place is rated on the food they put in front of you. If 50% is inedible you can't give them a high score just because the thing they specialise in is ok. If someone takes a dump next to your chicken, you don't think "well they do bloody good chicken, 10/10".

Charlie said...

Hah! Yeah, Chris, why didn't you give them more marks for the varied selection of dips and glaze? That's what makes Anonymous keep going back to Bird again and again.

I work in Shoreditch, so thank you for warning me off this place, definitely won't bother. Keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Hi, I've been searching for a varied selection of dips and glaze for years with absolutely no luck, looks like the search is finally over.

Thanks C&B!

Hatch said...

I went a couple of months ago and completely agree with this review. I particularly didn't like the decor, really overcooked, didn't feel as natural or as nuanced as I'd like it. But that's a taste issue.

I went back last night, knowing all this, having read the review, despite everything, I had a mad craving for the chicken and waffle sandwich and it was on my ride home.

I've got a huge appetite and was starving, but I barely managed half the sandwich. It's not that it's too big (I managed the other time I went), rather I started feeling queasy. Sick to the stomach and feverish I dashed home and acquainted myself with the toilet and a big glass of Dioralyte.

I'm not saying that health standards aren't up to snuff, that would be scandalous, but that sandwich definitely didn't agree with me, and I've eaten some right filth in my time.

Anonymous said...

I've been to Bird quite a few times, with the last time being last night. I can safely say I've never had a green chip (though I definitely have in McDonalds and look what that's done for them..)

What I do come across at Bird is fantastic chicken, which is quite important if you'e going to name your restaurant 'Bird'.

If you don't like the fries I can highly recommend the corn pudding as an alternative side. Great chicken, great atmosphere and I've definitely never had a violent reaction to a waffle burger.

But hey, what do I know, I'm only the 15th most highly respected chicken critic in the entire world.

("Anonymous" as I am computer illiterate- but you can have my name if you like :)