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David Ellis reviews Sidechick: Ignore the paltry poultry pun — this chicken joint radiates warmth

·4-min read
Bird on the street: the Zatar half-chicken with crispy potatoes (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
Bird on the street: the Zatar half-chicken with crispy potatoes (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Look, the name has to change. Granted, unfaithfulness is a pretty flimsy premise for any restaurant — even if I fancy I can imagine some grainy, Eighties TV footage of Peter Stringfellow opening a studded leather door and grinning, “Welcome to Flings!” — but Sidechick seems an especially dismissive epithet.

The truth of it is that Sidechick is actually a pleased-with-itself pun, having all started as a lockdown-borne chicken delivery service, a spin-off from burger chain Patty & Bun. You get it.

Over the summer, the group’s congenial founder Joe Grossman took a site next to his Marylebone P&B, but it was one of those openings that was overlooked while the plague gurned for attention. It’s worth a revisit: the concept is half or whole chickens cooked three ways ­— either aromatically spiced with za’atar, rubbed down with chimichurri or laced with piri piri — served with a run of sides. Ah but David, you’re thinking, has no-one ever told you about Nando’s?

And on paper, yeah, I can see that. But as it stands, the two are bound only by their preference for poultry. Let’s start with the looks. Sidechick’s a split-level, er, affair, both ground and basement beautifully mid-century: on the street level, in front of a sizzling open kitchen, it’s all formica orange table tops, brass detailing and gold, painted lettering on the window (one advertising the bargainous £12 set lunch), Matisse cut-outs, that sort of thing. The speakers sound sneered-lip funk. Downstairs, more of the same, but with the lights lower, the mood now smiling with a glint in its eye.

The bird is not the word: sides are the thing here, including the aubergine flatbread (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
The bird is not the word: sides are the thing here, including the aubergine flatbread (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

Then there’s everything else. Chicken — it tastes like one. But there’s hierarchy in everything and, having gone to HG Walter for their corn-fed types, Grossman has something like the aristos of the bird world: our gorgeous half-Zatar (their spelling) came gluttonously juicy, legs and the rest as soft as anything, skin browned with spice and blackened from the grill. The result is made to be gleefully torn into.

But the thing is, just as it’s nothing to do with illicit knockings-about, Sidechick isn’t really about the chicken at all. The bird is not, then, the word. The real joy is tucked away in the starters and sides; order enough and you might overlook that there’s no other meat, no fish, and no main-course vegetarian option (Joe, spread your wings!). You’d definitely forget that you’re in a delivery idea done good.

Sidechick isn’t really about the chicken at all. The bird is not, then, the word

Early on, a flatbread of broad beans with ricotta and mint was all summer freshness; another of chicken liver was one for the downpour days. Anchovies came laid out as train tracks of salt-and-brine flavour, sat in a yellow splash of oil, offering unexpected comfort.

Of the sides, I would have cheerfully had a messy pile of aubergine and labneh and tomato, with shreds of pecorino woven in everywhere, as a main. I would have spilled things and been happy. Healthier was a salad mimicking those Matisse cut-outs with various greens tessellating together, burnished sweetcorn offering stabs of colour and buttery flavour. And then the potatoes. While on principle, I reject the menu’s ability to be both smug and twee at the same time (“our potatoes are crispy golden nuggets of joy”), with the skins thoroughly crisped and their fat shining, Grossman could never be accused of false advertising. Besides, as my friend drily noted: “I respect them for not offering chips”. Eschewing the usual dance partner can, then, raise the tone.

Mid-century beauty: the street-level dining room (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)
Mid-century beauty: the street-level dining room (Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd)

So, neither posh Nando’s or a place to kick off something you shouldn’t. Sidechick sidesteps its clichés. But, while its short but terrifically done cocktail list and natural-focused wine list do both encourage a certain naughtiness (wine jumps from 175ml measures to half-bottles; they’re looking to tempt), this place radiates its welcome. They are warm here. Lately, my mind has not been, you might say, entirely cloudless — repeatedly waking from two till five in the morning will do that to you — but after both meandering afternoons here, I slept peacefully. I can’t put it better than that.

Sidechick, 56 James St, W1U 1HF. Meal for two plus drinks around £70. Open Tuesday-Sunday noon-11pm (until 10.30pm Tuesday & Wednesday; 6pm Sundays); sidechick.co.uk

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