Emma Dance checks out The Chicken Shed at Wapping Wharf
Move over pulled pork, fried chicken is the new kid on the hipster block.
The crunchy comfort food might once have been just a post-pub guilty pleasure, but now it’s ditching its dirty reputation to become one of this year’s hottest food trends.
With its new uber-trendy status then, it seems fitting that Josh Eggleton (the hob god from the Michelin-starred Pony & Trap, and one of the brains behind Eat Drink Bristol Fashion) chose CARGO at Wapping Wharf, Bristol’s achingly cool new eating quarter, to open the Chicken Shed – his own take on a chicken joint.
“This is something I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. I’ve always had a thing about fried chicken – you can’t go wrong with it!” he said.
To define the Chicken Shed simply as a fried chicken joint however would be doing it a disservice. Yes, there is fried chicken on the menu (and damn good fried chicken at that!), but it’s so much more than that.
Part of the Eat Drink Bristol Fashion stable (or should that be coop?) the Chicken Shed celebrates local food and embraces nose to tail – or in this case – beak to foot eating, so just about every part of the chicken appears on the menu.
Offal appears as devilled chicken livers and hearts on toast (£4.50) – we gave that a miss, but chowed down enthusiastically on the wings (£5 for four) which come smothered in a tangy and ever-so-slightly-spicy buffalo sauce.
The southern fried chicken (£3 per piece) with its thick, crunchy coating encasing moist thighs and legs is comforting and more-ish although a smack more spice wouldn’t go amiss.
There’s a char-grilled chicken wrap on offer (£8) which comes with houmous, harissa, seasonal slaw and fries, or a chicken in a bun (£8) – succulent chicken in a crunchy coating – accompanied by mayo, green salad and fries, but we go for the crown of char-grilled chicken with green salad, slaw and fries (£20 for a whole crown, £10.50 for half). The chicken is wonderfully seasoned, cooked to perfection and there’s a primeval satisfaction in pulling every last scrap of meat from the carcass.
A party of four can tuck into a truly chicken-tastic selection containing highlights from the menu, plus sides, for £50. On Sundays, of course, there’s a Sunday roast with all the trimmings (£16). Vegetarians are catered for with a spiced chickpea burger and fried egg (£8) (there’s got a be a nod to a chicken somewhere) which is among the best vegetarian burgers I’ve ever tasted, but I’m not sure that sitting amongst a bunch of carnivores gnawing on chicken bones would be the most pleasant experience for anyone who eschews meat.
There’s breakfasts too, with two eggs on toast from £3, with the option to add accompaniments, as well as specials like shakshuka (£7) or smoked haddock and spinach omelette (£7). Ingredients are already locally sourced, but Josh has plans to take it a step further by setting up a community farm to produce the chickens.
“We have the land and we have the customers so we can create the supply chain,” said Josh. “I want to be able to train people to farm. Education is so important. Hopefully we can raise the money to set it up through crowdfunding or something like that.”
There’s no reservations at the Chicken Shed, it’s a walk-up and take your chance kind of affair, but food comes out quickly and it’s not the sort of place where people linger for hours, except maybe in the summer when the terrace overlooking the water is sure to become a hotspot, so you’re unlikely to be waiting long. Fine dining it ain’t, but what it is, is really clucking good chicken!