Clutch, 4 Ravenscroft Street, London E2 7QG
Fifth result down on a quick google search, after discount handbags, care repair advice and gig dates for a 90’s American rock band, you’ll find Clutch- ‘the home of guilt-free chicken.’ This restaurant’s website has been at a practically blank holding page for months now, but I can tell you for free that the fried chicken here is clean-tasting yet completely addictive. We ate more chickens than there were diners at our table on the night in question and no, I do not feel at all guilty.
Right around the corner from Columbia Road, Clutch pops up out of nowhere, like a petrol garage in the desert. The building was once a dirty little East End boozer, but now, painted cartoon yellow, with a faux turf lawn and dolls house-style garden furniture out front, Clutch couldn’t be further than its former haunt.
A chirpy and sour ‘Jay Z’ (cocktail) started our night off nicely – the making of which had so many different elements it resembled that classic Rowan Atkinson/ Alan Rickman ‘no bloody holly’ scene in Love Actually. It was finish with a slice of crystallized lemon, raisins, sambuca, a naked flame and then burst into flames. This was just what a clutch of my favourite Swansea chicks needed on a balmy Saturday evening.
The atmosphere was very relaxed. I always find that the diners at restaurants that condone eating with your fingers are always much friendlier and there’s much more of a buzz in the air.
Curry Leaf ‘Love Me Tenders’ – strips of juicy breast meat deep-fried with a punchy, curry-flavoured crumb were the best things that we ordered. The dish is crowned with spring onions and fresh red chilli and it served in a proper 70’s yellow transparent dish. They were so nice that we not only ordered a further two portions, but I also plucked up (get it!) the courage to ask the chef for his recipe. He described the process vaguely, and was reluctant to give me his full secret. I don’t blame him! What he did reveal was that he marinates the chicken for 24 hours in buttermilk, before dredging 3 times in a special mix of herbs and Indian spices, two types of flour, pepper, mustard and finally black and white sesame seeds, before deep frying.
Sides: the truffle aioli was fabulous – very heady, just as it should be and I can still taste it now. The coleslaw was posh ‘slaw’ – finely shredded onions, cabbage and celeriac. A bit too much dill for me, but great if you love dill. The chips were just chips, nothing spectacular but did the job as a means to coat the fabulous aioli. The gravy was that horrible, pointless, watery kind you get in American restaurants, with too much white pepper and not enough flavour. A gravy needs to properly coat a chip – and this didn’t!
The staff chatted like that guy you shared geography classes with at secondary school but haven’t seen in 15 years, so although you still have fond memories of each other you really don’t have much in common any more. We did feel slightly neglected once we’d ordered and the water jug we were promised never arrived. Sometimes I like to be asked if everything’s ok with my meal, only if it’s asked sincerely and not by staff at a popular Portugese chicken restaurant so they can grab the numbered wooden chicken from your table to give to the next customers.
We paid £30 each, which included one lethal cocktail, and another two portions of curry tenders (which weren’t really needed but we just had to taste them again. )
As a restaurant that relies on the standard of deep fried poultry, Clutch has achieved in it’s aim in making going out for fried chicken feel exciting again.
The menu is exciting and hard to narrow down to a few dishes, although the sides need to have as much attention as the meat. My advice – you can’t go wrong with crisp tenders dipped in aioli. This isn’t just any old chicken shop and lives up to all the other fried chicken joints popping up left, right and centre these days. We left tipsy, full and very pleased with ourselves for choosing to eat out at Clutch before our not so well thought out night of cheap booze and bad dancing in East London. But the only thing I felt guilty about was not getting the full recipe for those damn tenders.