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|Address:||14 Denman Street, London W1D 7HJ|
|Tel:||020 3544 0759|
|Price: £31.00||Wine: £14.95|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 12M-11pm (Fri-Sat -12M Sun -6pm)|
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One of my favourite restaurant memories is that of a tiny little place in Paris called L'AOC. It's partly because I had a wonderfully romantic night there, with the most beautiful girl in the world, but mainly because you just can't compete with roasted meat.
The big selling point of atmospheric, soulful old L'AOC is their rotisserie. Enormous spits of chicken and pork, co-mingled juices dripping and covering lascivious slices of porous potato, thickly cut with rosemary and garlic, gently roasting in the meaty aftermath. After witnessing, and tasting, that you have to wonder how the Parisiens remain so thin (and also wonder who would ever want to eat a simple side salad again).
So imagine how delighted I was to hear that a rotisserie chicken restaurant had opened in Soho, on the site of the sadly missed New Piccadilly Cafe none the less. It must have been the easiest sell for finance in recent restaurant history. Let's just take every single restaurant trend and jam it into one. Chicken with more pedigree than a Crufts winner, a single item menu, no reservations and dude food you're encouraged to manhandle? It's all there. There are definitely eyes on a bigger prize here. Their parent company is called Clockjack Investments and they pre-emptively talk about ‘their first restaurant’, like they're going to be so busy rolling out new locations they may forget to update the website.
The place itself defines warehouse chic. Smooth wooden sharing tables with concrete walls and the odd flash of London Underground inspired tiling. If they don't make the rent in here, it's the work of minutes to pull out the large rotisserie unit behind the counter and slam in a branch of AllSaints instead. The bench seating is a little ungainly, though it's nice to watch the ebb and flow of Soho through the large windows to the front. Sadly, the large windows on the rotisseries mean you only get the occasional whiff of the slow cooking meat as it pirouettes around the heat. A parsimonious tease rather than tantalisation.
And the chicken? It's good. Really good. As good as you'd hope a free range chicken from a small farming co-operative in Brittany would taste. And for £19 a bird (with no sides), it bloody should be. Despite being nearly double the price of Nandos, an obvious target for comparison, that's not actually as much as it sounds, and it's a good sized beast that feeds two easily with a couple of plates of additional sides. Sadly none that we had were that memorable, but I wasn't complaining. We had a couple of pots of differing dips to spice up the meat though it didn't really need anything much, dense and fully flavoured with a sticky dark skin, it really was a good bird.
So does it compare to L'AOC? Sadly not. I have to withdraw my earlier statement. Shockingly it's not all about the rotisserie. The chicken might be good, but there's just no soul here. It's beyond fine for a quick lunch, but it's not somewhere I'd choose to linger long with the most beautiful girl in the world.