I’m going to keep you in suspense on the answer to that until the end of the article while I tell you about Whyte and Brown, the new restaurant off Carnaby Street, which has made the interesting (and some might think risky) decision to base its menu offering on two hero ingredients: free-range chicken and egg.
The Northerner, who eats pretty much anything except eggs, wasn’t sure. And I have to admit that having read the associated press releases, I was worried it might come across as contrived. Gimmicky, even.
Our concerns were alleviated as soon as we entered the place. W&B has taken over two floors in the corner of Kingly Court. Downstairs are floor-to-ceiling windows, restored industrial lighting and a distressed bar cabinet radiating hipster chic. This look continues upstairs, with exposed ceilings, reclaimed timber floors, and pendant lighting, all set against the whitewashed walls.
The very attractive waiting and front of house staff (is there any other type for a new restaurant nowadays?) seated and Prosseco’d us with speed and charm, allowing us to peruse the pun enhanced menu.
The olive pot and fried chill broad beans whetted our appetites nicely before we chose our starters of the Bangkok-Scotch egg on pickled cucumber salad and the Saigon salad. The Scotch egg made of mince chicken meat was huge, with just enough spice to give it a nice kick that didn’t overpower the egg. The Saigon salad of lettuce shells filled with crumbled chicken cooked with Vietnamese herbs & lime was sharp and flavoursome.
For mains we tried the Two-Ways Chicken Souvlaki – a hearty dish of char-grilled, marinated breast kebab and thigh confit, with hand-cut tzatziki, Greek feta and olive salad with tomatoes and warm pita bread. The meat was succulent, albeit a shake of seasoning short of being brilliant. I went for the recommended Brick Chicken. And while half a chicken might sound a lot, it was very reasonably sized. The lemon, thyme and garlic flavours were well balanced, and the home-made gravy and mash completed the moreish and indulgent dish. The Beyond-Eton-Mess made with popping candy and a lemon posset cream, which was more like a strawberry and cream dish, was delightful.
We picked a Gavi di Gavi from the extensive and reasonably priced wine list, which was just about right for the poultry based menu.
The other diners were mostly pretty young things in either pairs or celebratory groups. And as is the way around Carnaby Street nowadays, the ambiance was festive indulgence.
Whyte and Brown surprised us, in that we liked it a lot more then we thought we would. It's only a few weeks old, but looks to have the right balance of food, space and ambiance to be a successful new addition to the Carnaby Street dining scene.
As for the question, if this was a race, than the chicken and its dishes definitely came before the egg. Having said that, the chairman has invited us back for breakfast, at which I’m sure, the egg comes into its own.