WHYTE & BROWN
In the ‘60s a small backwater set between Oxford and Regent Street became the Mecca for Mod culture.
Carnaby St was the epicentre for all that was “trendy” and “groovy”. If you were young and cool you made the pilgrimage to buy clothes you couldn’t get anywhere else. The stores were legendary: Lord John, Donis, Mates, John Stephen and Lady Jane to name but a few. Just round the corner is Kingly Street which also had its moment in the spotlight when the outrageous nightclub La Valbonne opened in 1967. At the time it was the biggest nightclub in London and boasted a heart shaped swimming pool which invariably ended up being used by a bevy of very inebriated (and often naked) clubbers.
By the mid 70s many of the stores had expanded into high street status and Carnaby Street stopped being fashionable and morphed into a rather tacky tourist destination trading off its past glory. Similarly, La Valbonne stopped being “the” place to see and be seen in and after changing hands and being re-branded several times it eventually closed its doors for good in 2011 and is now an art gallery. But now it has all changed again.
The whole area has been renamed Carnaby. It is populated by media and creative companies and there are lots of funky little shops selling all sorts of funky little things. Kingly Court which used to be little more than a walkthrough alley is now home to several chic restaurants and bars all set around a courtyard where you can eat al fresco all year round as they cover the roof and have outdoor heaters.
Having just finished a meeting in the area and feeling the pangs my colleague and I decided to explore. We settled on Whyte & Brown. This is a restaurant that specialises in chicken but this is no Nandos or KFC, not by a long chalk. The decor is “uber” modern-minimalist but welcoming and the menu is a revelation. Who would have thought there were so many variations on the humble “chook”?
All their produce is free range and sourced from farms that they have actually visited and have a continuing relationship with. They also specialise in beers from English micro breweries and many of the dishes are paired with what the management believe is the perfect accompaniment. She started with Harrisa wings which were spicy, tasty and “fall off the bone “ tender and battling against type I ordered the South Coast crab on toast. It was insanely “moreish” and in all fairness the portion would have made a very acceptable main.
To follow I ordered the beer can half chicken. The meat was almost creamy in texture with crispy skin and the merest hint of beer. It was served with mash that was infused with liquid smoke and was possibly the best mashed potato I’ve ever had. My companion had the paillard flavoured with olive oil and lemon which became a little less calorie conscious when she ordered the cauliflower mac and cheese as a side. I didn’t get a look in but from the plates that could’ve been licked clean you can draw your own conclusion.
I’m not big on beer so we had a very good Malbec that worked perfectly well and kept the smiles in place.
There are some great looking desserts but we couldn’t even entertain the temptation – we were stuffed, like a couple of chickens. So a pair of exceptionally good double espressos and we were done.
The serving staff were friendly and efficient and even though the place was packed with lunch time Xmas parties the noise levels never impeded on conversation and the ambience.
Whyte & Brown is also child friendly with a really good kids menu, so if you are planning a trip to the nearby Palladium or any of the West End cinemas it is the perfect venue for a family outing. Oh! And by the way they also offer gluten free options which will be welcomed by many.There were so many things I would have liked to have tried that I’m looking forward to my next visit, however I do have one gripe. The barman has got to improve the Bloody Marys but that’s an easy fix in an otherwise great concept restaurant.
For reservations contact:
Whyte & Brown
Carnaby W1B 5PW
Tel: 0203 747 9820