Moving into the former Grazing Shed on St Mary St, Cardiff’s Eat The Bird is the first opening outside Devon for a small, award-winning group. Fresh from their two silver medals at WingFest, and against notable competition too, you’d hope they have come in earnest.
Reading around online though, I was prepared to write what amounted to an extended eye roll.
It’s the names. The names. Oh, the names. Calling the Korean-influenced burger ‘The Chicktator’ is an idea which should have been left to die quietly. Because- to these ears at least- nothing says ‘Misunderstood Wacky Funster’ like someone suspected of crimes against humanity, or of ordering executions and assassinations. Cor. ‘E’s a card, innee?
It gets worse. ‘Cluck me’. ‘Clucking Hell’. ‘Cluck Me Sideways’. Because cluck sounds like a rude word. You know the one, don’t you?
By the time I get to ‘Motherclucking Salad’ my sides have split like an old tyre sidewall and I require medical attention. Nurse- the screens!We are clearly in Lady Whiteadder territory. And if you ever find yourself trying to one-up Miriam Maroglyes, you know you’ve made a terrible mistake.
And then I started eating, and my mood changed.
So let’s start again, shall we?
There’s an attention to detail here that is rather disarming. There are- wait for it- actual knives and forks waiting, as well as a pint glass for my beer (a can of their collaboration with Devon’s Many Hands, a Great Taste accredited pale ale). They bring me water in a stoppered bottle, automatically. They will even do you a Negroni. This feels like fried chicken for grown-ups.
Throughout, service is rather lovely. It would put some far more ‘proper’ restaurants locally to shame. They have just made a fresh batch of lemonade, they say. (For the record: it’s lovely). And no, they didn’t know who I am: I didn’t go to the launch event, or artlessly’ post about going while tagging them in as I announce plans to visit. (Another common trick).
I am forced to conclude it was either my boyish good looks, or my ineffable charm, which led to such hospitality.
Or perhaps they just like hosting people. Who can tell, eh.
Inside the former Grazing Shed has had a smart makeover. Exposed brick, tiles, banquettes: it’s smart but unshowy. There’s ample choice for vegetarians and vegans, but chicken is the order of the day.
The entry level burger- always start with the basic model and work up- comes with chicken salt fries included, as they all do, though we upgrade one portion to their I upgrade one load to Kyiv fries, which come heavily laced with butter, dotted with chicken pieces and laced with a garlicky, peppery mayonnaise under the sort of snowdrift which would mean anxious moments huddled over the local radio station and fervent prayers for cancelled school when you were young.
The burger itself? Very good. The chicken is brined, double-coated and pressure-fried to keep those juices in. It shows, too. There’s nowhere to hide and everything stands up nicely.
Tenders are just that, chunky specimens with that well-seasoned, crisp and lightly craggy batter. Things are looking up.
Those glistening, lightly toasted buns- light but certainly sturdy enough- fsce their toughest test when things get wet. Which is where the Double Dip comes in. The burgers are well-built enough to stay together even when you add gravy. It’s a sloppy, ooze, dribbling mess in all the best ways.
And you should. It’s herby, full-bodied and rich. And, surprisingly, vegan. I have never willingly chosen a vegan gravy- well, why would I?- but perhaps I’ve been missing out. This is stout, well-seasoned stuff and makes this the pick of what we ate. All additional sauces are vegan, too, with Korean and Comeback worth a pop at a pound each.
They do beef, too. The Dirty Ronald is a classic cheeseburger which goes heavy on the dill pickles and is all the better for it. Think ‘tweaked, dry-aged beef version of your McD cheeseburger’ and you’ll be spot on.
So. Food good, branding bad. It’s certainly a far more encouraging start than other English arrivals. And it does make me wonder why fried chicken branding in Cardiff is so problematic, ranging from the asinine to the merely juvenile. The city centre needs a good fried chicken joint, and now it has one. Just ignore those names, OK?
Eat The Bird, 37 St Mary St, Cardiff CF10 1AD
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.