I'll admit that I'd never heard of Clockjack Oven before an email came into the my inbox telling me that they'd up-ed their menu and wanted to launch it to a crowd of hungry foodsnobs. Or words to that effect. Never one to skip a cheap meal and/or a fancy opening, I jumped at the opportunity.
Clockjack Oven deals in the rotisserie chicken business. This is a strongly growing field – what with the likes of Tooting's new Chicken Shop (much loved of the Standard) springing up, rotisserie chicken may well become the next big thing. And why not? I can see it's good business: Chicken is not expensive and (once you've got past the initial cost of installing a rotisserie machine) you've got a wonderfully low-cost, low-labour way of cooking really well cooked foul. The French have been all over this for centuries (literally) with their poulet frites. Now, perhaps, it's our turn. Move over Nandos – rotisserie's arrived.
The menu re-launch was a set menu, consisting of...
Starters: a trio of salads and some buttermilk chicken bites with ranch sauce.
OK, so far so good (although the pasta salad was a little bit... well, it was a little bit ASDA...). I can't really tell you what each one was, as none of them were on the new menu – which seemed really odd, given that this was meant to be a new menu tasting. There was a chalkboard up that said something about a salad bar at lunchtime. Maybe that's what we were eating.
But they were nice. This one, of pulled chicken, spinach and butternut squash was especially good – and came with a lovely sweet mustard dressing that worked really well.
Also, there was a rather nice rocket, parmesan, pine nut and raisin salad. I like savoury food with sweet stuff, basically, so this worked well.
But my favourite bit of the starters was the buttermilk chicken bites. Or, as they'd call it in the US of A, popcorn chicken. I've had popcorn alligator too, which tasted about the same. But I digress. These were great – I'd gladly have a meal of these. I'd get fat, I'd risk heart disease, but I'd be happy.
After the starters followed the main. A bowl of chicken and chips.
This is a tricky one. Because I don't want this to be a bad review – because it wasn't a bad restaurant at all, in fact it was pretty good. But, please, Clockjack Oven, what are you doing? This is a menu tasting, an opportunity to show off your best work, to flaunt your wares for the world to see and, hopefully, for some enterprising blogger with more than three regular readers one of which is his mum (so not me then) will write about it and lots of people will come to see for themselves.
So why oh why oh why have you given me a bland (in fact, rather salty) bowl of chicken and chips. Because there's plenty of exciting stuff on your menu. There's an interesting looking coleslaw. There's a hearty looking club sandwich. There's sweetcorn cooked in bourbon and honey – that actually sounds really flipping good, like mouth-watering-as-I-type good. I would love to tell you about all of the exciting stuff they do, but the menu tasting didn’t let me taste the menu.
And why didn’t you serve your chook with at least one of the four sauces you menu proclaims? Actually, really why not? And don’t give me cost – you charge 50p for them. Because without the sauce it was dull. Sorry, but it was. Dull. James (my partner in restaurant arms for the evening) commented: "Nandos is tastier than this" (he went on to qualify that Nandos was also drier – and I'd honestly choose moist over tasty any day).
It was just a bit of a cock up, that's all. A bit un-thought-through. Because, despite the blandness of the dish, it was technically superb. The chips were great – not the cheap french fries of fast-food fame, but proper frites that actually tasted potatoey and lovely. The chicken was incredibly – and I mean, incredibly – moist, juicy and succulent. Clockjack Oven does that sort of stuff well, and they should be recognised for doing so.
- GrubsterBoy -