Last week I had the privilege of being invited to a press night with other bloggers and journos at the newly-opened Whyte & Brown in Kingly Court. For those of you who don’t know, this restaurant located off Carnaby Street is based on two things: chicken and eggs.
I know, at first this doesn’t sounds highly exciting, but let me tell you, what the chefs have done to these two particular produce, is extremely innovative. Scotch eggs – a big foodie trend at the moment- feature prominently on Whyte and Brown’s menu, with unusual twists. The chicken too derives from the best free-range farms.
The restaurant itself is set in the ground floor courtyard off Kingly Court. With outdoor seating, twinkly lights and hidden away from the madness of Regent Street, I love this bit of Soho.
As you enter Whyte & Brown from Kingly Court, the bar is cool too. Big bare lightbulbs glow in a darkened room where we took advantage of their pretty inventive cocktail menu. Ryan Chetiyawardana is the name (try and say that after a few cosmos), mixing cocktails is his game… From seasoned margaritas, to a plum-infused saké ‘Hefty Japanese Mac’ and a bourbon-based ‘Four Saints’, this cocktail menu is anything but ordinary.
By recommendation, our group had the Whyte Wine Spritz which was similar to a white wine spritzer but flavoured with rhubarb bitters, lemon zest and fresh mint. I couldn’t really taste the rhubarb but it was still a great choice for those looking to sip on something light and refreshing.
The understated style continues upstairs where you have utility-style interiors, minimalist bare wood fittings and low hanging lights. The only way I can describe this place is warehouse chic. Somewhere you can drop in for a casual lunch or grab a bite to eat after work. But equally, I think Whyte & Brown will soon be a sought-after spot for evening diners who don’t want to spend a fortune on pretence, but also don’t want middle of the road. The food here is definitely not the latter.
In fact, the menu here has many worldly influences. For starters, our table shared a range of Harissa hot wings, chicken liver paté on grilled sourdough, half a dozen croquette balls, and of course, the much anticipated Bangkok scotch egg.
I wasn’t overly in love with the harissa wings – Whyte and Brown aren’t lying when they say they’re hot. I loved the idea of serving them with caramelised orange wedges, but I much preferred the chicken liver paté which was delicious.
The most talked about starter on the menu here though is of course, the Bangkok scotch egg. Did it live up to expectations? Absolutely. The chicken thigh meat casing was juicy and succulent and the yolk was soft and ever so slightly gooey. I know I said the harissa wings were too blow-your-head-off hot, but I actually could have tolerated a bit more heat from the Bangkok egg with some additional chilli. That said, it was filled with delicious Thai flavours (lime leaf, coriander, ginger, mint and lemongrass) and I’d definitely recommend you order this.
Make sure you order the crisp chicken shards too. They’re really crispy and you can eat them like a bar snack even if you’re not after a full evening meal. Definitely worth the indulgence if you’re happy to forget the diet for the night.
The wine menu’s quite varied here – ten whites, three rosés and ten reds, all varying in price from around £16 to £34 a bottle.
While waiting for our mains, we made paper fortune tellers. Yes, I know we’re not five years old anymore, but the restaurant has these things on the table like table mats and they help you decide what to eat. They also make for very quirky between-course entertainment.
I was so excited when my main course arrived – the light chicken and langoustine pie.
Whyte & Brown isn’t generally a fish kind of place. Although clams, langoustine and other bits of seafood feature here and there, in general, (in case you’d forgotten) it’s a chicken and egg kind of place.
With that in mind, being the shellfish fiend I am, the combination of chunks of langoustine and chicken in a rich and creamy béchamel sauce with samphire, celery and fennel was right down my street. The chicken was succulent and the puff pastry was flaky and delicious. Oh yes, and there was a langoustine jumping out of the top of the pie. It’s quite a tricky dish to eat eat (you’ll need a spoon, fork and possibly a bib), but words can’t describe how much I loved it.
The menu here made me realise how versatile chicken actually is. The meat-loving other half might complain there isn’t enough red meat to satisfy their caveman needs. But personally, that’s what I like that about Whyte & Brown. Hanoi chicken noodle soup, Pollo porro pasta and ‘brick chicken’ (marinated chicken breast roast-grilled under brick) all tempt the tastebuds.
There are also chicken burgers, a pulled chicken bap (which sounds amazing), and the impressive looking lemon leek risotto scotch egg, which one of our gang ordered.
I didn’t taste it but those who did said it was much more filling than it looked. It’s basically a risotto ball with a scotch egg and lots of lemony, buttery and herby flavours inside. Tempted? Yeah, me too. All mains vary from around £9.50 to £14 which for the quality, is pretty good.
We did fit in desserts (just) and sampled the brownie and ice cream and ‘Beyond-Eton-Mess’. The brownie wasn’t the best I’ve ever had and wasn’t as gooey as I like them, but apparently they offer different variations from time to time. Ours had hazelnuts inside and the accompanying hazelnut ice-cream was great.
The ‘Beyond-Eton-Mess’ did it for me though. Fresh berries and raspberry ripple meringue were tasty enough, but the lemon posset added a delicious tang. Top this with (wait for it) popping candy (!) and this is something I’m dying to re-make at home.
While this was a complimentary press event, I honestly thought that on the whole, this restaurant impressed in flavour, presentation and style.
I’d like to see this place on a Friday night when there’s a bit more atmosphere going on, but soon, I reckon it’ll be teaming with chicken-loving Soho-goers.
So which Whyte & Brown specialities scored the most points for me – the chicken or the egg?
It’s hard to say, both were impresssive. While I’d definitely recommend the Bangkok egg, that amazing pie won me over.
So yes, for now, I have to say the chicken.
Whyte & Brown, Kingly Court, Carnaby, London, W1B 5PW,
For more info, visit Whyteandbrown.com