I was late to our dinner reservation because I’d been singing Toto’s ‘Africa’ in a park with a group of strangers. Why, I’m not entirely sure, but I enjoyed it greatly even if my girlfriend moaned incessantly about the temperature throughout. Soon after we were cosied up within the bare-bricked confines of the Button Factory, me with a Smokey Old Fashioned and her wearing the disapproving look only a glass of diet coke induces. I’d go through many more of those before we end the evening and those looks would become more and more menacing. It turns out that standing in the cold watching your boyfriend channel his inner 80’s rock god and following it up with him getting wasted is not everyone’s ideal night out. You can’t please everyone, it seems.
Still, Claire ended the evening happy and replete. There is some genuinely good stuff going on at the Button Factory, like properly good in a way I honestly did not expect. From the small plates section comes some of the best hummus in the city. The key is the texture, smooth, with coarser chunks of chickpea mixed in for interest, and the dusting of nutty dukkah over the top. It never bores, and that is an achievement for a dish as universally bland as hummus. The same goes for battered calamari that are greaseless and cooked without any chewiness, and lamb kofta, smokey and delicately spiced that are lovely, moreish things. Only the ‘nduja croquettes fail to hit the spot, with not enough of the spicy sausage to penetrate the mashed potato.
The pork and chorizo burger has never left the menu here and I can sort of see why. The burger makes full use of the josper grill here, imparting a smokiness on the crust that works with the mixture. It fills a hole without ever becoming special in the same way other parts of the menu do, parts such as the flat iron chicken. That chicken, oh my, brined, cooked in the water bath and then blasted on the Josper, its salty and charred and as good as any chicken I’ve eaten in a very long time. For a minute or so we put everything else aside and concentrate on finishing the bird, only returning to the other plates once the task is completed.
Of the sides we select a take on kimchi with fennel that is a pungent thing which works so well with the chicken, and sweet potato dressed in a yogurt that soothes and occasionally pops with chilli heat. The latter is brilliant and laughably cheap at £3. We finish with an arctic roll, a dessert that I was eating when my girlfriend was minus six in age. It’s well made, with plenty of lemon sharpness, and the various raspberry elements all feel warranted. The dish was recommended to us with good reason.
The menu reads well and I had been wanting to eat here before, but holding me back was that nagging feeling that they would not be able to do justice to the Middle Eastern influence that runs through the menu. I was wrong. The use of spice is subtle, there to lift flavours and stop the smokiness from the Josper taking over. It’s all very accomplished. And in that chicken, I’ve found a go-to dish that I’ve already been back for.
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