Strut & Cluck sounds like it might be one of those places where disappointing slabs of buttermilk coated fried chicken (always buttermilk) are served in an ironic basket.
In fact, the meat on the table at this Spitalfields venture is turkey – and almost a whole menu full of it.
But rather than doing Christmas dinner 24/7 all year round, Strut & Cluck aims to showcase the potential of this bird by pairing it with Middle Eastern-cum-Mediterranean elements: from harissa and tahini to fiery Pul Biber peppers.
General Manager Kelly Willett told me the owners, husband and wife Amir and Limor Chen, went all out to get their ideas across to her on what Strut & Cluck should be – even whisking her to Tel Aviv to meet some of the suppliers, as well as scoping out the dining scene for inspiration.
The resulting dining area evokes an unpretentious Mediterranean terrace, albeit one with a great big long bar at the front.
Macramé features on the walls without feeling chintzy, and the furniture is mismatched, but in a way that says ‘eclectic’ rather than ‘something went seriously wrong here.’
To start, I went with Ms Willett‘s recommendation and had the cauliflower, served in either a quarter, half or whole, and dressed with crème fraiche and pomegranate molasses. I was told that this dish is popular with their weekday regulars: what’ll keep them coming back is the sumptuous flavour combination of citrus and cauliflower, to which I am a huge recent convert.
In this case, the citrus is of various types (predominantly lemon zest) and added to the crème fraiche, with more zing coming from the quintessentially Middle Eastern, concentrated flavour of the molasses. The leaves, extra charred from the cooking process, are a particular standout.
Alongside the starter I tried an Israeli beer, Maccabi, which had the pleasantly malty, extra thirst-quenching quality that seems to suit warmer climes so well. At this point, Strut & Cluck was beginning to feel so comfortably holiday-esque that, naturally, I began to worry. Surely an outlook this sunny on a chilly October evening is begging for a disappointment of some kind? And after all, this is turkey – which doesn’t really have a consistently positive reputation (fancy a twizzler?)
I needn’t have worried – the ‘classic slow-roast thigh’ was very fine indeed. Served with a liberal jug of buttery gravy, the turkey has amazing depth of flavour underneath its delectably crisp, spiced skin. The slow-roasting promotes turkey’s natural qualities – its arid fibrousness and gamey taste – and strengths, with the meat swaddling your tongue in warming tastes.
The chunks of sweet potato and caramelised red onions are a smooth treat, and the barberries puncture the pure comfort with a welcome sourness. The dish could have used something with a firmer edge for an extra twist texturally – one of the sides (from pitas to salads) or something from the “roasted and tossed” selection, may work well for this purpose. But it’s more than enough to satisfy and enjoy on its own, especially with the cold winter nights drawing in.
Strut & Cluck’s website makes a significant amount of bones about turkey as a medical marvel – talk of amino acids, zinc and tryptophan abounds. This is all fair enough of course, but their turkey-based menu delivers more of a tangible, delicious reward than that – and if you get a chance to gobble at it, take it.
Strut & Cluck, 151-153 Commercial Street, Shoreditch E1 6BJ