I had an encounter with an A-lister the other week. Well, a frontman from an internationally famous rock band elbowed me in the head as he and his equally A-list actress wife squeezed past me while I was finishing dinner. That counts, right? I must have been ever so slightly star-struck (or maybe just very British) as I actually apologised to Chris Martin when he clonked me in the back of the head. But he was too busy zooming after Gwyneth Paltrow so I don't think he heard. Sigh. For the record, even on a dressed-down Friday night dinner in Kentish Town this pair was looking pretty stellar. In fact I'd only been alerted to the presence of these famous diners when I noted that my own dinner companion was distracted from our fascinating conversation by something over my right shoulder. 'Sorry,' she said when I asked what could be more appealing a sight than my own charming visage, 'but there's this really hot couple behind you. I mean, they're just both ridiculously beautiful and blonde. They're like poster-children for Hitler's perfect Aryan race. Look!' And there they were.
We were in Chicken Shop, my new favourite eatery in the city; a place which has fast become the favourite eatery of many other Londoners since it opened in the Soho House Group's new Highgate Road development above Kentish Town last autumn. Restaurant critic Giles Coren, former Blue Peter chap Richard Bacon, and obviously Chris and Gwyneth, are among this place's celebrity fans. But given the queues awaiting tables on each of my recent visits to this new restaurant plenty of us normal people are rather loving Chicken Shop too.
Yes, this is another of those 'too cool for reservations' places. You enter through an unmarked door, wondering vaguely whether you're about to walk into someone's living room, and head down to a basement filled with the thump of classic 60s rock and roll tracks. There is a slight element of the shed about Chicken Shop - lots of wooden panels and the odd pile of potato sacks. But the place is far cleaner than your average shed, and with the rotisseries spinning merrily just the other side of a wide metal-topped bar, the restaurant certainly smells better too. Once you've been greeted by the cheery serving staff you will be shown to a table - if you're lucky and the place is rarely quiet - or you will be told how long your wait for a table will be. But even if you have a wait ahead of you it's rarely more than about 30 minutes, and the staff are happy to keep the drinks flowing so you don't get too bored. Although after watching everyone else tucking in to their delicious-looking dinner you may be messily salivating by the time they finally seat you.
And then you're seated, and you order. Which is a beautifully easy affair. No messing about with menus here - simply request however much of a chicken you reckon you can eat without bursting, add a couple of sides, and you're all set. Deciding which sides can present you with possibly your only dilemma of the evening. Should you have the perfectly salty crinkly fries or the corn-on-the-cob? Would a buttered lettuce and avocado salad accompany your tender chicken wing better than the fresh coleslaw. Guys, I'll save you the agony of choice - order them all and thank me later. Oh, and you can have another drink too obviously. And if you're really still hungry after the tastiest chicken in town, you can always chase it with a slice of apple pie or a slab of chocolate brownie. Don't feel bad about it. Gwyneth had pudding too.
Chicken Shop is at 79 Highgate Road, London, NW5 1TL