I could begin this post about my meal at Clockjack in a hundred ways, but none sounds as appropriate as this quote from Alexandra‘s review:
“I was a very picky eater when I was growing up. Mom had to cook a different meal for me just so I would eat. I think at one point she decided to scratch that and just cook chicken. 7 days a week. Full Chicken Sunday, Peanut Chicken Monday, Potpie Tuesday, Curry Chicken Wednesday, Paprika Chicken Thursday, Taco Friday and Lemon and Caper Chicken Saturday.”
For all I know, she could have been describing the dinners I shared with my mother as a child. I was an incredibly fussy eater; my mum cooked chicken on most nights, as she could feed me little else. Her repertoire, however, was limited to two dishes: gristly pan-grilled chicken breasts, and an oven roast chicken main she unfailingly managed to overcook (it came without sides, because I only ever asked for chips, and she’s never been a fan of frying stuff). The sole mention of chicken had me roll my eyes in despair. I hated it, had enough of it, couldn’t bear the thought of another bite of it. Why couldn’t I just have pizza all the time? Then I moved to London, and began to love it again. Because I could make up for the lost time by ordering truckloads of chips with it, but most of all, because restaurants like Clockjack exist.
Clockjack prides itself on serving succulent chicken dishes made with ethically reared free birds, and offering a wide range of UK and imported craft beers. I headed there with the firm intention of eating my weight in rotisserie chicken, and staying off the booze for as long as I could (you know what I’m like with drinks); little did I suspect that I’d set my glass of tap water aside after the first sip of the first brew on the menu. With its light, fruity notes, Fuller’s Frontier Lager won a place in the very short list of beers I can bear drinking. It paired well with our sharing starter of homemade houmous, baba ghanoush and warm pitta; a light yet addictive snack, ideal to prepare our buds for the chicken feast that followed.
Clockjack’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken hit me with a distinctive taste of dairy; almost a signature flavour, nothing like the mass-produced tasteless bites you get at your local high-street chicken shack. As Clockjack’s owner Gary explained, the chicken is marinated in buttermilk batter for 24 hours, then breaded in flour, pine flour, paprika, and garlic and onion powders. The result are golden, crispy morsels with a heart of tender meat (and, well, a perfect complement for another glass of beer).
The chicken wings were juicy, rich in flavour – and, for once, fulfilling. If you steer clear of ordering chicken wings for fear of getting lots of bone and nearly no meat, know that this stuff is different. We had both chilli wings and barbecue wings; both of them rich in seasoning, and (surprisingly) packed with juicy meat around the bones.
Three courses in, the meal was far from drawing to an end: it was merely time for the pièce de résistance. Enter the Rotisserie Chicken, soaked in a soft herb brine and cooked in the only vertical rotisserie in Europe. The size of the whole chicken was so striking, Gary had to bring it out for the classic food blogger photoshoot first, before cutting it up into quarters so each of us could have a (very large) share.
As I ate my quarter chicken, I couldn’t help thinking about my mother; not her cooking skills, this time, but the warning she’d have given me if she’d seen me approach it with knife and fork in hand. “If you don’t eat roast chicken with your hands”, my mum says, “you’re not eating it properly”. Well, I’m not sure if that’s how you go about eating in a room full of people you’re meeting for the first time. Thankfully, the chicken was tender to the point it fell off the bone, so none of the fellow bloggers sitting around me had to witness my Italian country bumpkin antics. I’ll save those for when I go back with my partner, who knows better than to frown at my table manners, and still can’t believe my otherwise genteel mother actually said that.
As you’d expect, the Rotisserie Chicken came with a bowl of chips. Baked beans, coleslaw, and sweetcorn flavoured with bourbon and honey too; but who needs those, when you have crispy, perfectly salted double-cooked fries in front of you? Not me. I couldn’t stop myself from grazing on them – not even when I remembered that dessert was still yet to come.
Speaking of which: the pecan and maple syrup pie was my favourite, and the only one I had a second helping of; the chocolate ganache tart very pleasantly rich, a perfect standalone dessert but not the most obvious choice to finish off a plentiful meal; the vanilla cheesecake well worth a nibble, although a tad too sweet to brave a whole slice. I ate them half-heartedly, my mind still stuck on the Rotisserie Chicken’s heavenly goodness. I’ve been telling everyone about Clockjack since: my colleagues, my partner, and even my parents (who probably hate me right now, because they can’t just jump in the car and drive there for dinner). I’ll be back soon, probably more than once, and always on an empty stomach that awaits filling with as much chicken as it can fit.
14 Denman Street
London, W1D 7HJ
(nearest tube station: Piccadilly Circus)
Open 17:00 – 21:00 Mondays, 12:00 – 22:00 Tuesday to Wednesday, 12:00 – 23:00 Thursday to Saturday, 12:00 – 21:00 Sundays
020 7287 5111
Note: Zomato invited me to dine at Clockjack as part of a blogger meetup. All opinions are my own.