Another day, another chicken restaurant. They’re springing up everywhere, but the good news is that Whyte and Brown isn’t just another generic protein provider. Predictable Southern-fried and spit choices make way for hearty, wholesome dishes served up with a theme that’s not overpoweringly done. Add the handy location and the prices to the mix, and you’re onto a winner.
It doesn’t get much trendier than Kingly Court these days. Media types and fashionistas gad about amidst the odd bewildered Oxford Street tourist, and a steady stream of shoppers filter in and out of the vintage boutiques and fancy tea shops. Smack bang in the middle of the courtyard sits Whyte and Brown, or at least its outside section, with wooden benches and green umbrellas offering pleasant, if hardly tranquil, al fresco dining. Inside, on the ground floor there’s a bar and a few tables, and upstairs a further large space is scattered with wooden tables and complementing green features in the form of chair covers, glasses and so on. It’s light, airy, modern and pleasingly unpretentious: there’s no hint of a concocted ‘fast food’ or ‘diner’ theme here.
On a sunny summer evening, expect to wait a while for a table outside in the courtyard; it makes for an enjoyable setting, though, and all the more so if you’re a fan of people-watching. Inside, it’s constantly busy with a stream of people flowing in and out, but not to the point of distraction, and you certainly won’t feel rushed along by the warm, approachable staff.
After a little groan at the puns on the menu ('feeling peckish?'), a closer inspection turns up a host of varied and interesting choices. There is, unsurprisingly, a large focus on chickens and eggs here, and everything on the menu is free-range, of course, with ethically responsible food an essential requirement for the guys behind Whyte and Brown.
As a starter, the half a dozen croquette balls (£5.45) are excellent, and it’s no surprise that these are, apparently, the most popular starter. Shredded chicken and pancetta balls are mixed with chives, lemon and béchamel sauce (thankfully not too overpowering) and then served with a smoky, sultry tomato sauce. Served up in a petite metal bucket, the presentation is rather appealing too. Other firm chicken-and-egg favourites are on the menu, albeit with interesting twists: harissa hot wings (£5.95) sit alongside a Bangkok Scotch egg (£6.25), infused with lime, coriander, lemon grass, ginger and chilli. Lighter options such as the Saigon salad (£5.45) – chicken served on a bed of lettuce cooked with a kick of Vietnamese herbs and spices – also provide tangy, zingy choices.
Main courses are also varied and seem to cover every corner of the globe, from souvlaki to Hanoi chicken noodle soups and tagliatelle. Simple dishes such as the chicken paillard (£12.95) are certainly impressive: succulent grilled escalope is served up with lemon, olive oil, vine tomatoes and basil, and the simplicity serves to showcase the quality of the meat itself. Of course, this is a chicken joint, and so there’s no escaping the inevitable chicken and bun combination. The pulled chicken bap (£9.75) sees the chicken shredded, marinaded in smoky barbeque sauce and served up with slaw. It’s tangy and satisfying, though there’s a sense that some other menu options – those which other chicken spots aren’t serving up – are what makes this place really interesting and, indeed, where it really excels.
Onto dessert and there’s a solid selection of options – thankfully chicken-free. The brownie and ice cream (£5.95) is rich, moist and just on the right side of crumbly, while the seasonal fruit crumble (£5.75) is particularly good. Changing daily according to fruit supplies, a sweet and sharp mix of strawberry and rhubarb makes for an indulgent treat, served up with a crunchy crumble topping and thick vanilla custard.
With no set house wine options, there’s a fair range of good bets on the menu, such as the fresh Chilean Sauvignon Blanc (£16.95 for a bottle). Cocktails are also worth trying here at only around £7 each.
The Last Word
There are a whole lot of places dedicated to chicken in town, but this has to be one of the best. For hearty, comforting food, an unbeatably-central location and an all-round enjoyable evening, Whyte and Brown is most definitely worth a try. Who needs to know whether the chicken or the egg came first when they’re both so good?