441 Coldharbour Ln, Brixton, SW9 8LN, UK
020 7733 0108
This new place, only opening in September, describes itself as a late-night chicken shop, serving a southern American spin on fried chicken, along with a dedicated cocktail menu. It will also host a range of DJs every weekend but this probably means in the evening. On Sunday lunchtime we just enjoyed listening to the background music, which was mostly classic soul.
For old Brixton hands this is, of course, the premises occupied by the much-missed Phoenix Café, a classic ‘greasy spoon’ of long-standing, before it moved further down the street and then vanished. It was always rather poky and, even following a total reconstruction from the foundations up, it’s still on the small side. There are some cosy four seater booths on one side, opposite the bar, but most of the seating is on stools at high bar tables. It’s also a little on the dark side, which I suppose gives it some atmosphere.
I’m not sure what constitutes south American fried chicken and the food on offer is pretty Brixton generic – i.e. much like stuff you can now get at many other places in Brixton. There are the inevitable chicken burgers; crispy fried chicken wings of course, with a choice of sauce varying only in how spicy hot they are; and, somewhat randomly, waffles. If this place is going to succeed it needs to stand out by the quality of the food, rather the uniqueness of what’s on offer. One plus is that the meat comes from ‘free range happy chickens’, although quite how they know the chickens were happy is unclear.
There were three of us and the dedicated vegetarian had the Jackson burger – described on the menu as a ‘veggie patty, roast beetroot, sweet potato, black bean and wild rice with a blend of herbs and spices’ served in a sesame seed bun with cheese, lettuce, onion and mayo. This received a definite thumbs up, marking an improvement on the usual tasteless beanburger. The bun also maintained the structural integrity of the dish
I had the chicken wings with the middle-ranking sauce, described as “having a little kick”, which was quite hot enough. The wings were oddly small but properly crispy, despite being served smothered in the sauce. I chose the smaller serving size, supposedly six, although there were more.
The third choice was boneless chicken pieces (chicken nuggets in other words), served deep fried in breadcrumbs with a “secret spice mix” and BBQ sauce. The sauce was given a positive review, with a deep savoury smoky taste, although the chicken itself wasn’t really as interesting as it should have been.
For sides we had a portion of fries, a dish of coleslaw and waffles. The fries were fine, if not outstanding; the coleslaw was as we like it; and the waffles were a bit odd, mainly because we were expecting savoury potato waffles, but were served ones made with flour and served with a sweet sauce. The portion size of the sides cannot be described as generous but, in the event, we had plenty to eat.
The service was attentive and appropriate action was taken when there was a delay due to a problem with the waffle machine, i.e. we were given our drinks (passionfruit juice, ginger beer and a coke) for free. We passed on a pudding (a limited choice), as well as cocktails, (a good choice). Altogether, without the drinks, the bill came to £30.50 before adding a tip.There’s been a suggestion that Brixton is becoming a giant food court and this places fits into that model. It’s going to have to work hard to develop its own identity as a food destination, or else it’s going to end up as just another place to have a drink and socialise.