Chicken Shop, 79 Highgate Road, London NW5

It serves chicken, quickly, but Chicken Shop is no ordinary fast-food joint

Hipster Nando's. That was my clever friend Rebecca's quip about Chicken Shop, after her visit on the first night it opened. She's not wrong. This latest outpost from Nick Jones, of Soho House and Pizza East fame, is a fast-food joint, dishing up rotisserie chicken and a few side dishes in a no-bookings, wipe-clean tables, menu-on-the-wall environment. The difference, of course, is in the detail.

Not least the clientele; Kentish Town is peopled with trendy twentysomethings who live in flats and their affluent, house-dwelling cousins. Judging by the thronging crowds, this is exactly what they've been waiting for. Everybody loves roast chicken, right? But not everybody wants the (shriek!) non-organic, rapper-beloved Nando's.

Then there's that interior. Behind an unmarked door, stairs descend to a dark, smoky room. OK, I lied about the smoke, but there's definitely a waft of char in the air from the huge wood fire at the back, above which chickens twizzle in the heat. It's sexy, noisy and once down there, I'll do anything for a table.

"What, wait 45 minutes?" My three friends and I trudge up the stairs and out past the heaving Pizza East on the ground floor in search of a sit-down and a drink while we wait. Luckily, Highgate Road is well served for hipster pubs too. The Vine across the street looks good, but five minutes further up is The Southampton Arms, where you can consume artisan beers and ciders and artisan pork (if that didn't already exist, it does now) in artisan surroundings. A bloke at the bar in an artfully battered trilby attests to the beauty of the meat.

But alas, no sooner have the pints been pulled than a call on my mobile summons us back to Chicken Shop. Turns out it's almost impossible to tell just how long anyone is going to sit at their table. And I soon find out why.

With barely any choice – quarter, half or whole spit-roast chicken; crinkle-cut chips, coleslaw, corn on the cob and butter lettuce and avocado salad the side dishes – ordering takes but a second. Wine comes in three sizes: glass, small jug or large jug, and three types: house, decent or good. There's such a din of music, cutlery and a semi-stampede up and down the stairs that I don't catch what makes the difference between a decent and a good white wine, but the decent, at £19 for a large jug is, well, decent.

We've barely opened our napkins and glanced around before a series of enamelled dishes starts arriving. The first two are empty. Turns out these are for the scraps. A big dish follows with a whole chicken on it (£14.50). It's been jointed already, which helps, but the light is dim enough that I make a few unwise chomps down on to bone. It's delicious chicken, though, which is a blessed relief – restaurants have been built before around one ingredient which they've then failed to deliver in taste or quality.

It's sticky and tender, skin slathered in salty, herby juices. There's hot sauce (again, no Nando's, this stuff creates beads of sweat on the brow at first bite) and smoky sauce. The excellent, although super-salty, crinkle fries (£3) come with ketchup and garlic mayonnaise. Four chunks of corn cob (£3) arrive, with a waiter brandishing another jug. This one has melted butter. Why, yes please. Coleslaw (£3) is proper; simultaneously crisp and sodden with creaminess. The salad (£4) has big chunks of ripe avocado.

I'm struggling to find much fault with Chicken Shop except the frequent interruptions by staff. I don't mind most of the time, because it's to proffer sauces or more chips – yes, we went there – but it's all a bit eager beaver. It might be new-gaff nerves, or it might be part of the technique to keep things moving along. The prices are pretty keen, so they need to pack in the punters to make Chicken Shop work (and presumably to roll out a mini-chain, like Pizza East). If the plan is to be an NDR – industry speak, non-destinational restaurant – then pudding is a flaw in that plan.

There's warm chocolate brownie and lemon cheesecake – both good examples of their sticky genre – but it's all about the apple pie (£4). It arrives at the table in a family-sized dish and as much or as little as desired is ladled on to the plate. An enormous jug of cream is placed at my elbow. This could take a while…

7.5/10

SCORES: 1-3 STAY AT HOME AND COOK, 4 NEEDS HELP, 5 DOES THE JOB, 6 FLASHES OF PROMISE, 7 GOOD, 8 SPECIAL, CAN’T WAIT TO GO BACK, 9-10 AS GOOD AS IT GETS

Chicken Shop, 79 Highgate Road, London NW5, tel: 020 3310 2020 Open Tue-Thur 5pm-12am, Fri-Sat 5pm-1am. About £45 for two, including drinks

Divine diners

Atomic Burger

96 Cowley Road, Oxford, tel: 01865 790 855

This super-funky diner pleases all with its generous and freshly cooked burgers. The queues are proof that this is one of the few decent joints in Oxford.

Calistoga Central

70 Rose Street, Edinburgh, tel: 01312 251 233

This New Town bistro offers clean-flavoured California-style cooking with nothing to fault it – highlights include the friendly service and low-mark-up US wine list

Spuntino

61 Rupert Street, London W1, spuntino.co.uk

With its grimy Americana look and achingly cool staff, Russell Norman’s Soho newcomer has inspired evangelical fervour among young fashionistas

Reviews extracted from ‘Harden’s London and UK Restaurant Guides 2012 www.hardens.com

News
The surrealist comedian at the Q Awards in 2010
people
News
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
Voices
New look: Zellweger at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
voicesRenée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity, says Amanda Hess
Sport
Christiano Ronaldo enjoys his opening goal
champions leagueLiverpool 0 Real Madrid 3: Ronaldo and Benzema run Reds ragged to avenge thrashing from their last visit to Anfield
Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Nicholas Serota has been a feature in the Power 100 top ten since its 2002 launch
art
News
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
News
Wilko Johnson is currently on his farewell tour
people
News
Let’s pretend: KidZania in Tokyo
educationKidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day
Life and Style
CHARGE BOOSTER: Aeroplane mode doesn't sound very exciting, but it can be a (phone) hacker's friend. Turning on the option while charging your mobile will increase the speed at which your phone battery charges
techNew book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone
Arts and Entertainment
Julianne Moore and Ellen Page are starring together in civil rights drama Freeheld
film
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Financial Controller

    £50000 - £60000 per annum: Sauce Recruitment: A successful entertainment, even...

    Direct Marketing Executive - Offline - SW London

    £25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A fantastic opportunity h...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?