Thursday, 17 March 2011

The Spot

As a diversion from the endless hoo-ha surrounding Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (and by now Spuntino) I’ve decided that a review (my attention-seeking withstanding) about a place serving ‘anti food’ in North London would be a relief. Anti food is a term I would include stuff like doner kebabs, battered sausages, fish n chips, extra deep deep-dish pizzas, etc; in other words, food of little or no nutritional value. It’s also food that comes with an unobstructed opportunity to push the red button for a life to be riddled with health complications thereafter. Well damned if I do and damned if I don't for I love anti food. My kinda crap and by Jove, I adore fried chicken! Unashamedly yours, and thanks so for lending me your ears.

Soul food simply means fried chicken to me. So much so that I’ve been trawling here for quite sometime. Ironically I would also state that a serving of fried chicken is worth a pain in one’s heart (clinically speaking) for its sheer indulgence is enough to make it the king of comfort food. And despite being callously maligned and leading on to another twattish moment, it’s also food for the gods and therefore the masses. I am well aware of the fact that a real McCoy southern fried chicken recipe includes buttermilk so let’s be honest this degree of authenticity is impossible to find in any London restaurants serving poulet à l'américaine. In fact a few years ago I did sample a so-called buttermilk-ed offering at a soul shack on Westbourne Grove. It was gross and beyond belief, half-cooked and dripping with indeterminable and bright yellow fat, it invariably confirmed that KFC was posh fodder in comparison. Thankfully, Harlem (the place in question) has since shut down. For the record the best fried chicken I’ve had is not even American but Korean, from a place found here…and they don’t even use buttermilk!

The Spot (Soul Food Kitchen, to give it its full name) in Kilburn is I believe the only place in London that serves up the cuisine of the Southern United States and pretty admirably I might add. Its location is best reached by the bus 98, awkward but in no way a grim odyssey. Unfortunately Spot doesn’t offer the soul food repertoire in its entirety, our dear Precious would be aghast to find pickled pigs feet, collards or black-eyed peas cooked with fatback and boiled chit'lins missing from the menu, this place is strictly halal!

It's is neither a diner nor a restaurant; imagine waiting for the 490 to Great Yarmouth at Victoria Coach Station, analogously Spot’s a waiting-room for your takeaway dinner. And it isn’t exactly fast-food-quick either, when it’s busy, expect a longish wait as most of the dishes are cooked to order.

Pick your mains from the above plus two sides for six quid.

Your dins end up in a 3 compartment takeaway container (if you’re somewhat anal, that’s Expanded PolyStyrene foam, but don’t think too much of it…what with the environmental concerns) and Heathrow airport cutlery (the kind of plasticky ones that break readily when attempting to cut a barely overcooked morsel).

During the past six months and with the exception of the desserts, I’ve had everything on the menu. The beef dishes are nothing to shout about and with no apologies, ribs are not ribs unless they’re pork. Otherwise the following are worth noting-

Southern fried chicken with biscuits and coleslaw.
Delicious chicken. Dunno what the secret is but the skin was delightfully crunchy and the meat lovingly tender, bloodfire…there’s summat ‘bout dem halal birds! The biscuits were in effect well-baked scones without the pomp and the coleslaw had more than enough sugary sweetness to make the cabbage an unsung hero as part of the five-a-day nag. (I know, the order of biscuits in this case was downright erroneous, as there was no gravy to mop up with!)

Four rounds later, the chicken pieces were still consistently good. I’m of course referring only to the thighs and drumsticks, white meat would be wholly inappropriate and pointless. This southern fried has to be the best in London (This spicier but tougher version comes a very close second).

Cajun fritters-
saltfish fried in seasoned batter. Not much fish to taste of, but coz it’s been fried till the cows come home, you’ll love it anyhow!

Mac n cheese-
not too dissimilar to biting a Lego brick and if you’re into packaged food mixes, your prayers have been answered.

Glazed wings-
apparently southern fried again and baked in a sweet soy sauce marinade. I have a slight paranoia when large-sized wings are concerned, OAP broilers disconcertingly come to mind! They were OK-ish and messy eating but KFC needn’t worry about its Hot Wings.

Chicken gumbo with cornbread and collard greens

Cooking chicken at The Spot is obviously a priority and these guys have the knack. For a takeaway dish, it was accomplished; beautifully cooked chicken, excellent gumbo stew (although not much of it) and surprisingly tasty slices of beef sausages. (Whereas the seafood gumbo was overcooked and forgettable.)

a most moreish savoury cake, moist with more than a touch of beguiling sweetness. A must-have side, imagine what it would be like if it was baked with lard instead…a serious and sinful addiction methinks!

Collard greens-
a vital accompaniment to any soul food mains. I can never say no to plain boiled kale, but kale cooked in a stock of some sort is even better. The greens served by The Spot were exceptionally good.

Crispy catfish, fried okra and candied yams-
although a tad muddy tasting, it was still first-class eating; it’s was meaty and it packed more punch than our average pollock or plaice. Bottom feeders make an awful lot of sense, but achtung, if one has a phobia of choking on a fish bone, avoid the catty at all costs!

Fried okra- I know that a lot of the Caucs have a thing or two about the gooeyness of cooked lady's fingers, but when they’re deep-fried in batter it’s reminiscent of bivalves and thus scrumptious. Not to be missed or dismissed.

Candied yams- a ultra sweet veggie side that doubles up as a dessert. Please be reminded that the Yanks refer dem yams as sweet potatoes and which, they were here. But I have forgiven them for the misconstrued confusion, the ‘yams’ were amazing!

The Spot might not come close to this and no matter how pernickety you may be, it has made more than a decent effort of the southern fried chicken and not to mention the catfish, collard greens, cornbread and ariston. Fly the flag, the Spot comes highly recommended.

58 Willesden Lane
London NW6 7SX


Su-Lin said...

TFL tell me that the only thing between me (home) and The Spot is an overground train ride. I see fried chicken, collards, biscuits, fried okra, cornbread, etc, all in my future!

bellaphon said...

Su-Lin, enjoy!

The Grubworm said...

Sometimes down-hoe soul food cookin' is the only thing that hits the spot. It's one of the main joys of travelling the Deep South. But biscuits without fat, salt and sausage meat saturated gravy is heinous sin.

On the other hand the corn bread and fried okra sound like they just about make up for it. Any signs of oyster Po' Boys there?

bellaphon said...

The Grubworm- I began to tolerate the compromising nature of ethnic cooking in Blighty years ago! No Po' Boys, they're probably too alien for the Kilburn folks.

meemalee said...

Ph god, I don't knwo if I should tell my husband about this place. He'd kill for biscuits.

Lola said...

Following an excellent meal and time on Saturday 17.03.12,I went to order again tonight, and what a disappointment.

1) We ordered at 1925 got there at 2000, food not ready, why because they could not contact me via mobile. Fine (That's my fault-bad reception)the order needed to be substituted, but the rest of the meal should have been ready

2)No apology or attempt to compensate for the extra 40 minute wait

3) When I did receive my order, it appears this particular cat fish had been on a diet.

The Spot does good food, can't lie, but it needs to work on its customer service. Won't be making another trip over the river again.