Georgette McCready heads to downtown New Orleans to discover a new take on American fried chicken
The new restaurants in Southgate have been lucky when it comes to creating their own spaces. Without the restrictions of listed building status or historic fittings they’ve been able to let their interior designers’ imagination run away with them.
And so we find ourselves walking off the Bath paving stones of Southgate into a bar in downtown New Orleans, a large welcoming space with a dark wooden floor and dramatic black and gold wallpaper and cosy booths tucked in along the walls – ideally placed for people watching. There’s music playing but it’s not so loud you can’t chat – and we like the fact that you can’t hear what the diners in other booths are talking about. Thoughtfully arranged coathooks beside each booth allow you to settle yourselves in with plenty of elbow room around you. And you’re going to need that elbow room if you’re to do the food justice.
We’ve been to chicken themed places before, with mixed experiences. But my lunching companion Jake and I have not had fried chicken as good as this. It’s moist, perfectly cooked white meat – not a hint of stringiness or gristle – and although fried to golden crisp, we’re not reduced to wiping grease Henry VIII style from our chins. The Absurd Bird’s successful USP is that not only are its chickens well brought up free range hens, but they’ve come up from the famous Creedy Carver farms of Devon, which supply many of the UK’s best restaurants. The inhouse chefs then home brine the meat for eight to 12 hours, which accounts for its succulence and why it tastes nothing like chicken we cook at home.
Lunching with a 20-something who has a hearty appetite is a good test of Absurd Bird’s fare. And Jake is determined to do it justice, ordering a main course of chicken with waffles, smoked sweet gravy and maple syrup (£11). It sounds a lot. “Are you sure?” I ask him. He is.
And when his dish arrives, it’s three tennis ball sized pieces of fried chicken and four enormous waffles drizzled in syrup. Jake tucks in and makes quick work of this enormous platter. “It ought not to work but it’s surprisingly perfect together,” as he pauses to hoover up a handful of moreish sweet potato fries and sample the very generous side dish of pipingly hot (in both senses of the word) jalapeno mac’n’cheese.
Meanwhile I’m enjoying eating three small fried chicken sliders (£9.80) with my fingers – hence the elbow room. I’ve ordered these because they contain bacon jam, which is a novelty to me. It goes well with fried chicken as it’s sticky and sweet.
You might think this isn’t the sort of place to come if you’re on a diet. Well, you could order a light quinoa and mango salad with or without added chicken, or you could just sit on a stool at the central bar with a lime and soda. Absurd Bird also welcomes people who want to treat the place like a bar, or maybe just come for cocktails and a plate of buffalo wings. Monday to Fridays, 5pm to 7pm, the afterwork happy time, cocktails are £5 a-piece and draught Becks is £3 a pint. The prices are pretty good, as befits a cool, urban brand which started out in Shoreditch and Soho and has only just spread its wings outside the capital. During the week, between noon and 5pm, you can order a pint and a main course for £10, or three courses and a drink for £16.
To be frank, you’d do well to polish off three courses, so generous and hearty are the dishes. Would Jake manage a pudding? Would he be up to a large slice of Crack Pie (the Absurd Bird’s take on treacle tart, served with clotted cream)? Hell, yes.
The puddings (priced £4.80 to £5.50, or £8 for the sharing Dipsy) are like nothing we’ve had elsewhere in Bath. Chocolate chip cookies turn out to be three oversized warm, gooey and, to use a technical term, yummy. They’re served with a small bottle of ice cold milk that takes me right back to those days of getting home from school, raiding the biscuit tin and watching Scooby Doo.
The self-styled crazy chicken coop is going to start serving breakfasts at weekends. Eggs Benedict on waffles with the Sunday papers sounds good. And for anyone running the Vitality Bath Half marathon and wanting to seriously re-fuel some of those spent calories with comfort food, this would be a great place to rest up your running shoes for an hour or so.
We hear live music on Thursday evenings is coming soon. Although by the look on champion chomper Jake’s face he won’t be dancing for a little while yet.