London birds are the best. In the capital they come coated in breadcrumbs for deep-fried deliciousness, spatchcocked in style or roasted whole for shared fun at your party's table. Whether you're looking for an American feast, a traditional British take on fowl play or even Korean-style fried chicken, enjoy the chook that's cooked the best at this selection of London restaurants where the chicken always comes first.
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Chicken restaurants in London
Fifty percent misnomer, LeCoq’s name tells you a half-truth about this restaurant: chicken yes, French no. There is no choice of main course – it’s rotisserie chicken, free-range and organic birds from Sutton Hoo in Suffolk. These roasts are served with a seasonal vegetable accompaniment – on our visit, a ratatouille-like caponata. The quality of the meat is apparent: this is poultry that needs no peri-peri marinades to imbue it with flavour. To prevent diners and chefs alike becoming bored, the menu changes each week.
At this smaller branch of the Soho House restaurant in Kentish Town, the menu is as prosaic as the original’s: grilled free-range chicken, with chips and side salads, plus a few desserts. Half a chicken feeds two, and still leaves plenty for a doggy bag. The chicken is succulent, the fries crisp, the creamy coleslaw well worth the £4 charged.
Venue says: “We are a social enterprise – a not-for-profit restaurant working to improve things for young people in our area.”
This is a different kind of chicken shop – it’s non-profit, the chicken is free-range, and it’s steamed then quickly fried to crisp up the delicious coating. Sides include the likes of sweet potato wedges and kale. By night, it’s a restaurant proper – complete with sit-down menu and table service – but one that has deliberately chosen not to take the hipster route, which trickles right down to the affordable price tags.
Pop-up king Carl Clarke brings KFC (that’s Korean fried chicken) to Dalston, with a side order of disco and whisky, gin and vodka sours. The chicks in question are marinated in buttermilk Southern-style and cooked in rapeseed for an oh-so-crunchy batter. For a real feather ruffler, order the burger with gochujang mayo and fries cooked in beef dripping.
Clock jack, steam jack, bottle jack… back in the days of yore, there were many ways to spit roast a piece of meat, and with the current chicken trend sweeping London, it appears that there still may be. While the likes of Chicken Shop have gone with innovative new rotisserie techniques, Clockjack Oven have revived an oldie, but a goodie. The clock jack spit roasting method, sees plump chickens (here free-range and sourced from Brittany) revolving around an open flame. The main event here is perfectly good – but what got us more excited were the sides, including a generous portion of 'crispy chicken bites'.
At this hip East End newbie you can have any dish, as long as it’s chicken. Not that this is any ordinary fowl, oh no: every piece comes slathered in one of six full-on marinades. A ‘half bucket’ (thigh, drumstick and breast) arrives in a sticky slick of garlic and sweet soy; a dozen wings come in a sour and spicy sauce suspiciously similar to sriracha (a Thai chilli sauce found in Asian supermarkets). And because Clutch uses free-range poultry, each limb is firm and succulent (no bingo wings here). Portions are enormous; there are sides, such as double-cooked fries and a few salads, but you won’t need ’em. Plus, there’s drinking until 1am at weekends.
The short menu at Tramshed has steak (rib, sirloin or salad) or chicken as mains. Whole roast chicken (barn-reared these days, rather than the free-range birds initially used) arrives at the table up-ended on a spike, and surrounded by fries; at £25 it easily serves two and can stretch to three, helped by seasonal sides such as (delicious) wild garlic mushrooms. Starters (just-so yorkshire pudding with whipped chicken livers) and desserts (super-sweet salted caramel fondue with marshmallows and doughnuts, £12.50 to share) had more wow factor.
When we first heard there was a new ‘chicken and egg place’, we couldn’t resist a disdainful snort. We expected a basket-full of fowl puns and irritatingly chirpy staff. Puns are present, but most of the menu is actually pretty clucking good. Crucially, there’s no rotisserie and nothing masquerading as sexy KFC here. Instead, it’s a roll-call of grown-up dishes – the kind you’d find at a (chicken-themed) dinner party, with more nations represented than the Opening Ceremeony of the Olympics.
Bird serves up free-range fried chicken alongside fresh cut fries, Korean cucumber salad, corn pudding, mu shu pancakes and more. You can order up a round of wings with a choice of glazes, or opt for a whole chook for the table comprising eight pieces and four wings. If that's not sticky enough for your tastes, order up chicken and waffles with Canadian maple syrup.
Nando's is about the only chicken chain restaurant where celebrities are desperate to be labled a VIP and earn their own High Five Card. That's thanks to quality chicken served in the Portuguese tradition. There are more then 70 branches across London, so take your pick and get down with the peri peri.
Tired of chicken? See London's best steak
We've tried and tested the very best restaurants in London for the very best cuts of meat, and here are the results – London's top steak restaurants. We've chosen from Argentinian steakhouses and British brasseries to find you the finest fillet, sirloin, rib-eye and more.
La Dame de Pic London
An effortlessly chic restaurant in the Four Seasons run by superb French chef Anne-Sophie Pic, who has three Michelin stars to her name. Given Pic's heritage, the menu is accordingly European, but made with seasonal, locally sourced British produce. The menu features Cornish mackerel escabeche, acquarello pea risotto and, for a sweet tooth, rum baba.
Venue says: “La Dame de Pic London offers special lunch menus, available Monday to Sunday, with two courses for £29 or three courses for £39 per person.”