We all have our guilty pleasures when it comes to food. Mine is fried chicken, and I must admit to being none too discrimating in the pursuit of this field - I harbour a deep love for a KFC bargain bucket and have even been known to stop off at Kansas Chicken when too much wine eliminates all judgement and persuades me that this is a good idea. Fortunately, a couple of restaurants have come to my rescue and helped me preserve what little dignity I have left by making fried chicken respectably desirable once more - Splendid on John Dalton St have been serving up their fabulous buttermilk fried chicken wares for some time, and now we have Yard and Coop in the Northern Quarter as well we need never be too far away from a chook emporium.
And people clearly can't get enough of it - when we went to Yard and Coop for lunch last Friday it was full, and according to manager Nathan the evenings have been even busier. This is good to see, as a lot of care and attention to detail has clearly gone into the new venue, both in terms of the decor and the menu, and we liked the simplicity of the whole concept - people come here to drink good beer, and eat decent fried chicken, and then be on their way a little happier than they were before. This is a great spot they've got here, a huge airy space on Lever Street alongside the excellent Common and Home Sweet Home, and I like the way they've styled it, from the fairy lights strewn around wooden seating areas that look like chicken coops to the fantastic Mr Fox presiding over the whole affair from his vantage point on the wall.
The menu is single-minded to say the least; this is not a place to visit if you don't like fried chicken or halloumi, which is the vegetarian option across all the dishes. We started with a portion of Monkey Balls to be going on with - balls of buttermilk fried chicken served up in a basket with a couple of dips. These were obviously freshly made and cooked and were very good indeed. The menu suggested they went well with a pint so I obeyed, and found that the menu was right, and that the Yard Pilsner was very good too. Various salads and wraps are available as mains, but we went straight for more fried chicken - basically you choose whether you want breast or thigh (always thigh for me), which crumb you'd like, and then select a sauce as well. My Yard and Coop crumbed thighs (two of them) were things of very great joy - moist, succulent flesh with a properly crispy, herby coating and stacks of flavour, and my fragrant dining partner was similarly pleased with her breast-and-blue-cheese-sauce combo. All the sauces are homemade and my Bourbon BBQ was spot on; I'd have liked a little more of it, but I'm sure someone would have brought me more had I asked. I'm also not a big fan of the baskets used to serve the food here - I find them difficult to manoeuvre in, particularly once you start factoring in coleslaw and other sides. As well as the good, fresh slaw we also shared a portion of chips (with Cajun seasoning at no extra cost) and some onion petals with chorizo and a horseradish and beetroot salsa. This last dish didn't quite work for me as a combination, delicious as all the individual components were, but the chips were very good and more than enough for two to share.
For dessert I had one of the boozy shakes (Salted Karamel - so thick the straw stood up, good flavour although could stand a boozier hit) whilst my friend eschewed something sweet in favour of a stormingly good Old Fashioned from the cocktail menu. We both very much liked Yard and Coop - some people will complain about the lack of variety on the menu but that misses the point really, and there is a whole range of interesting sides available to pimp up your chicken. The staff were lovely, seeming genuinely keen to share their thoughts and advice on the menu; prices seem reasonable at £6 for a basket of chicken; and the place had a very cheery buzz about it indeed. A promising addition to the Northern Quarter then - all I need to do is start carrying my own plate in my handbag and I reckon lunch next time will be pretty much perfect.
- Yard and Coop is at 23-37 Edge Street, Northern Quarter, Manchester M4 1HW. We were not asked to pay for our food or drink but both enjoyed it and would return as paying customers at the shake of a hen's tail.