I suppose I have this blog to thank for my changing attitude towards eating habits. I was the kid who only ate beans on toast, and the teenager – I’m frequently reminded of by my mates – who only ate chicken breast, off the bone, with a side of chips and a big dollop of Tommy K. Still, this blog was named what it is because two people in their twenties went out and threw themselves into the world of restaurants for the first time in their lives, one slightly more than the other, who pretended to be vegetarian so that she could avoid raw meat, rare meat, offal, and foie gras. All the good bits, basically. I went along for the ride, mostly, occasionally switching out the raw or risque dishes for the vegetable alternatives, slowly learning through eating and taking in as much as this little brain could manage. I think the blog was possibly a year or so old when I went to the Hand and Flowers for the first time when someone on the table ordered the chicken (I think it was the occasional vegetarian) and the front-of-house took a minute or two to explain that the bird is brined and cooked at a temperature to set the protein in the meat without drying it out. They told us the meat would appear pink at times and very pink close to the bone. It was the first time I learnt to understand that cooked chicken is a texture thing much more than a colour thing. If you don’t like pink may I suggest her first album when she was a little more R’n’b. Or just eat the breast meat. Like I did, when I was a horny fifteen-year-old.
I relayed the Hand and Flowers chicken story to one of the owners of Yardbirds as I left. Despite the menu clearly saying that they could swap thigh for breast, I guessed that they’d need to maybe go a little further. In much the same way as society moves as fast as its slowest members, food reputations are only as good as the thickest instagrammers. They had to make it idiot proof, because there are idiots out there and because their standard offering utilises the thigh (the tastiest cut of bird) and is cooked in a way that keeps the meat juicy, but crucially not white throughout in all case. It’s Yardbirds bloody fault for wanting to do the best they can they’ve gone from street food to shiny new Stirchley restaurant.
Let’s not mess about, the resulting chicken goes straight towards the best examples in the city. Brined – and therefore seasoned throughout – and poached in a water bath until cooked, it gets a dredging and then a coating that defies convention and I think involves cereal to get that all important snap. The coating tastes remarkabley like the fifteen secret herbs and spices, though this seemingly has more cayenne pepper and garlic powder. I try it on a waffle with maple syrup and buffalo sauce, and also on a burger. The waffle is excellent, as it might be given they also own the excellent Bournville Waffle Company, and provides a cushion for the chicken that cracks and crunches upon entry. The burger works as burgers should; the bun holds its form, and the rest is purely a vehicle to get that oh so juicy chicken into the mouth with as little mess as possible. There are messier options that I will be trying at later dates, but this visit was all about establishing just how good that chicken is. It happens to be very good.
From the sides are frickles done as frickles should be. Sweet pickled gherkins, battered to retain all of the pickling juices. Addictive little things. And chips drenched in a gravy that speaks of rendered chicken fat and attitude. It is the KFC gravy on steroids, ironic given that KFC (probably) feed steroids to their chicken. I half-jokingly suggest that they should sell it by the vat for Christmas dinners. Truth is, I’d quite like one for myself. Possibly to bathe in.
The drinks are brilliantly concise. Superb beers on tap including the excellent Attic and Deya breweries, one red wine, one white wine, and one fizzy wine. Cocktails including a Biscoff White Russain which is likely to make me very fat over the next few months and for the record I am perfectly okay with that. A bill of £60 between two seems about spot on for the quality. Yardbirds tested the water by doing the street food scene first and now they’ve upped the quality with the restaurant. Highly reccomended, so much so that it is going straight into Barney. Thats the Top 50 in Birmingham to you.