Could we ever run out of chickens? | Clockjack Oven, 14 Denman Street, London, W1D 7HJ
‘What’s for dinner mum?’ I’d shout down the stairs at 1.47pm on a Sunday after an epic teenage sleepathon. ‘Only chicken’ she’d reply. ‘Now get out of bed you lazy git!’. And she was right, it was only chicken – cheap, flavourless mid-eighties battery farmed meat. They say that everything tastes of chicken, but these chickens didn’t really taste of anything!
Fast forward a few years and chicken restaurants are everywhere. There’s the newly renamed CHICKENliquor (previously Wishbone), Chicken Shop, Mark Hix’s Tramshed (yes we know it sells steak too), Whyte & Brown and a Nando’s on every street corner. Saff is actually quite concerned about the amount of chickens that are consumed in this country – she honestly thinks we’re going to run out!
Tucked away on Denman Street, just behind Piccadilly Circus and an eggs throw away from the spectacular looking Ham Yard Hotel is Clockjack Oven. Named after an old-fashion spit roasting contraption, this restaurant has been quietly producing some fab chicken dishes since it’s opening over 18 months ago.
Although Clockjack Oven has been open for a while now the decor still looks new and fresh. The is mainly due to its industrial yet functional decor. It has a mix of long communal tables with benches and smaller tables of four with heavy metal chairs. Large chalkboards hang on rough finished and exposed brick walls (I wonder how many plasterers have gone out of business during this ‘brick wall’ trend?). But the space has a real café vibe, mainly due to the large airy windows give the perfect opportunity for people watching.
The place mat food menu was simply designed and so easy to navigate, while the drinks menu is on a separate mini clipboard. For once we skipped the cocktails, there were only two to choose from anyway but staggeringly cheap at under £6. Saff went all soft on me and ordered a fresh Traditional homemade lemonade £2.55, head twitchingly sharp and instantly refreshing. I ordered a Pomegranate cider £4.75, as I’ve never tried one before, plus the Briska brand is produced at the oldest cider mill in Österlen, Southern Sweden. I found it more refreshing than the pear variety although the pomegranate taste was fairly subtle, I think I’d struggle in a guess the flavour competition.
To start we ordered the Buttermilk chicken bites £5.95, from the ‘nibbles and sharers’ section. Well I say we ordered, our waitress insisted that we had it and we were glad she did. Various sized chunks of thigh and breast meat soaked in buttermilk, deep-fried to beach-babe brown and served with barbeque or ranch sauce. Actually we had both sauces, the barbeque had a rich smokey blast, while ranch sauce (more a dip than a dressing) was light and creamy. Saff wasn’t sure if it contained cheese, I said I wasn’t sure either – that was so I didn’t have to share it. USELESS FACT ALERT! Ranch dressing was ‘invented’ in 1950 and has been the best-selling salad dressing in the United States since 1992, when it overtook Italian dressing.
Choosing a main was simple, what took our time was deciding on the sides (or extras). Saff had the Quarter rotisserie roasted chicken £5.75. Their free-range, ethically reared chickens are sourced from a co-operative of farms around the town of Janzé in Brittany. Maybe Saff is right on her chicken shortage theory, we have to get our chickens from France now. Before roasting, Clockjack Oven marinate the birds in a unique soft herb brine, which enhances the natural flavour, then the intense heat of the rotisserie flame creates that delicious browning and crisping of the skin. Plus the rotation of the chicken around the rotisserie cooks the meat gently, giving succulent meat packed with flavour. To enhance this flavour even more Saff ordered some Roast chicken & herb gravy 50p in a pretty floral miniature jug.
I went for the Clockjack club sandwich £8.75, and boy it was a monster – big enough for two to share. Shredded rotisserie chicken, smoked bacon, herb stuffing, sourdough bread, mayonnaise, plum tomatoes and lettuce. I dipped it in the left-over Ranch sauce, not that the sandwich was dry, in fact it was the opposite, but simply because I liked it so much! As a side the waitress recommended the Watermelon, feta cheese and olive salad, £3.50. She hit the jackpot again, such an unusual flavour combo that just works, I’ve even recreated it at home – so simple, so delicious.
I’m glad I didn’t order any other extras with my sandwich, my belly was already busting at the seams. But Saff’s Jim Bean and honey sweetcorn £3.95 would be top of my list, sweet and slightly sticky with that afterglow warmth from the bourbon. Saff didn’t want to try the Double cooked fries £3.25, as good as they looked. Instead she had the most amazing Roasted new potatoes £3.75, topped with Rosemary and sea salt and scattered with pancetta.
Desserts were a little disappointing, but this is a chicken shop and I wouldn’t want a pudding with chicken in, that would be fowl (get it?). Out of the four options Saff decided on the Pecan and maple syrup pie £4.95 and I the Sorbet £3.25 for two scoops. Both were good but not an all-singing, all-dancing end to a meal, especially as the apple sorbet was apparently sweet and like a purée (I wanted sharp and sour) and the raspberry sorbet had sold out.
There are a couple of things that are definitely worth a mention. The lunchtime express salad counter (12pm – 4pm every day), a God-send for the office workers of London. This selection of fresh salads, available for eat-in or to grab and go for a quick lunch. Great for a light bite or as a side with the rotisserie chicken, so no excuses for the same old sandwich from Pret or a pre-packed calorific salad from a supermarket.
But if you are far too busy or way too important that you can’t leave your desk for even 20 minutes then they even have a take away and delivery service. Pre-order your take-away by clicking on their ‘order takeout’ button above or get your order brought to you by Deliveroo.
We waddled out of Clockjack Oven content and full. Service is friendly and smooth, the chicken knocks spots of Nando’s and they serve a great selection of craft beers and cider. All in all it’s finger licking good, oh sorry that’s an old ad slogan from a certain chicken chain…
14 Denman Street,
London, W1D 7HJ
Telephone: 0207 287 5111
Opening hours: Mon – Wed: 12.00 noon – 10.00pm,
Thurs – Sat: 12.00 noon to 11.00pm, Sun: 12.00 noon to 9.00pm
Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus (2 mins walk) Leicester Square (7 mins walk)
We ate as guests of Clockjack Oven, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.