If Fulham is the land of the red chinos, Dalston is the land of the singlet. Or the ‘wife beater’ as we once knew it jokingly, before we decided jokes need trigger warnings. You know you’re dining in springtime Dalston when you’re eating bespoke chicken within sight of vests exposing armpit hair and jeans so tight you can see the wearer’s mild arousal.
At Chick ’n’ Sours — pop-up pioneer Carl Clarke’s new Dalston chicken shack — the males sitting at the bench beside me complained bitterly about the ghastly election while simultaneously planning three holidays: Sardinia, Croatia and a boys-only jolly to Berlin. House completion dates permitting, that is. Young Dalston women (usually called Harriet), wearing Barrecore pants, hobble from Columbia Road carrying aspidistra plants with their very thin arms. All dogs wear neckerchiefs.
I have a soft spot for Dalston. It’s silly but fun. Clearly, it is largely unrecognisable from ten years ago. In fact, it’s high time the residents rose up, like in Brixton, and staged a protest against themselves. And its dining options grow ever more favourable: I’m a big fan of Rotorino, Pond, A Little of What You Fancy, White Rabbit and Tonkotsu East. Dinners at any of these places — followed by a night at ‘alternative super-pub’ The Glory — are never dull.
Obviously, there is a Logan’s Run feel to going out in Dalston. Quite frankly, after the age of 30, one’s sex appeal while wearing an American Apparel spandex cheetah-print halterneck diminishes rapidly and it’s time to relocate to Bishop’s Stortford and get terrifically excited when Zizzi does a two-for-one on calzones. But before you leave, perhaps give Chick ’n’ Sours a try. If you’re one of those people who has never thought fried chicken and sour drinks went hand in hand, this is a place to smash those narrow-minded perceptions.
The Chick ’n’ Club cocktail contains gin, lemon, raspberry and chilli vinegar and vermouth. There are at least three things in this list that make me grimace, but I assure you, when stirred together in a half-pint tankard with ice, they are dangerously drinkable. The Basil ’n’ Strawberries vodka cocktail contains black pepper. House beers are Bermondsey’s Fourpure.
There is something irresistible about Chick ’n’ Sours to the passing Dalston footfall we noticed as we sat out on the street, watching the world pass by. They stare, they eye up your dinner, they wander back and read the menu, they snap pictures and make loud plans to return. Imagine an army of hip moths and then imagine Chick ’n’ Sours is a big glaring 60W bulb for them to bash their heads against. If one is wondering when the dirty-food trend might end, my estimate is absolutely never. Why would it when people like Clarke put serious thought into keeping it fresh and challenging?
The Bun at Chick ’n’ Sours — which I demolished with excellent beef dripping fries — is Korean fried chicken with gochujang mayo, chilli vinegar and slaw. It’s messy and has a serious kick. If you’re one of those people who cries when your chilli con carne contains chilli, don’t order the Bun. Timid types should have the Tender — boneless white meat with a selection of dips to choose from. The Goan curry sauce dip is subtle, creamy loveliness.
All the chicken is free range from Pilmoor Farm and the vegetables from the Keveral Farm organic farming community. The Saturday and Sunday brunch menu offers ‘Son in law’ eggs (fried eggs, coriander, mint, crispy chicken skin and roti served with caramel sauce). Pudding — or ‘End’ as it’s referred to on the menu — has just one option: Weetabix ice cream. There is a reason my mother put Weetabix out for me at 8am each morning in the 1980s and I let it go to mulch. It’s almost like Carl was trying to get rid of me. Judging by the queue, my seat wouldn’t be empty for long.
Chick ’n’ sours
390 Kingsland Road, E8 2AA(chicknsours.co.uk)
1 Tender £8
1 Bun £10
1 fries £2.50
1 pickled watermelon £4
1 soft serve ice cream £3.50
1 Rye ’n’ Black £6
2 Rum ’n’ Coke £12
1 Fourpure pale ale £4