Maggie Auffarth takes a trip to Balham to explore the world of the Chicken Shop and sees if it lives up to the label of the Nando’s for grownups
When I stop by The Chicken Shop in Balham for a spot of dinner the first thing to strike me is how cosy it is. Situated along a busy street just steps away from Balham Station, it boasts a remarkably quaint atmosphere with warm lighting, rustic wood panelling, and a charmingly retro soundtrack playing underneath the contented chatter of its hip, young customers. The tables are small, best suited for intimate groups of two or three and there is a relaxed, comfortable air about the shop.
With multiple locations across London and Chicago, the Chicken Shop knows what it’s about—and what it’s about is serving up locally sourced, free-range birds that have been marinated overnight, steamed, and slow cooked over an in house spit. I’ve heard it hailed as a Nando’s for grownups and am eager to see if it lives up to the buzz as my friend and I take a seat at a small table along the wall.
Once seated, we have a look at the menu, which is refreshingly simple enough to be painted in its entirety on the opposite wall. Offering a choice of spit-roasted chicken or burgers as well as a selection of classic sides like crinkle cut fries, coleslaw, and corn on the cob, the menu reads like a list of time tested and comfortable favourites. After perusing for a bit, I opt for a quarter chicken with fries on the side, while my friend decides on the cheeseburger with fries.
As we wait for our food it’s hard for me not to fixate on the rotisserie towards the back, turning beautiful, golden skinned chicken over the heat. It’s like a decoration in itself—granted, a decoration that makes my mouth water.
When our food arrives I barely pause to appreciate the minimalistic and unfussy plating before digging in. The chicken is fall-off-the-bone tender and perfectly roasted, great by itself but also balanced well by the provided lemon wedge and a touch of the shop’s signature smokey sauce, which is already on the table along with a hotter variation. My friend’s burger is similarly delicious. When I ask her about it she nods enthusiastically, finishes chewing, and says soooo good, especially with the smokey sauce. Rounding out our meals are the fries, which come in their own bowl and make crispy complements to the main dish.
After dinner we both order the warm chocolate brownie with ice cream and double cream off the dessert menu, which is equally simple, including staples like lemon tart and deep filled apple pie. It’s very good—gooey and not overly sweet—though perhaps a bit too chock full of macadamia nuts for my taste. We leave the shop full, satisfied, and warmed from the inside out by the quality comfort food and friendly service.
If you’re looking for an extravagant meal or a bevy of options to choose from, this is not the restaurant for you. In a city where spectacle is so often celebrated, The Chicken Shop is a quieter, more understated option. It specializes in doing few things and doing them exceedingly well. It’s a place for good friends and good conversation as much as a place for good food, and the perfect option for a low-key and enjoyable evening.
By Maggie Auffarth