I tried really hard to think of an angle for this review – a discussion of the rise of American soul food in London, for instance, or of how a restaurant focusing on one type of food can be a blessing (cheaper, better quality, less potential for regret) or a curse (because you’ll always end up comparing it to the best food of that kind you’ve ever had). But I couldn’t do it. It’s not because Ma’Plucker is particularly bad, I just can’t see the point of it.
Craving fried chicken of the Chick’n Sours variety led me to Ma’Plucker, which at 6:30pm was deserted – not so much a bad sign as utterly bizarre for Friday evening in Soho, when even the worst places seem to manage to get some people in. It had filled up a few tables when I came back about an hour later but it still felt weirdly empty. I don’t mean that as a mark against the place but it was fairly strange.
Our waiter was extremely friendly and smiley, which was nice, and the restaurant itself was brightly lit with wooden benches and tables, diner style. The menu offers a choice between a salad, a ‘house bun’ or a maple waffle, and then three different kinds of chicken – rotisserie, battered and fried, or ‘low and slow pulled’, which sounds disgusting to me but which Ben said he enjoyed when he went.
Our side of ‘crack and cheeze’ came first, and turned out to be a cricket ball-sized ball of macaroni and cheese deep fried in breadcrumbs. The macaroni was undersauced and fairly flavourless, but was fried well so the crunchy outside texture made up for that somewhat.
But the pickles were a disgrace – £2 for about seven small, limp spears which you’d pay 99p for a jar of 50 of in Tesco. For £3 at Bone Daddies you can get a platter of weird, delicious home-pickled vegetables. I don’t know what Ma’Plucker is thinking in charging for these things – they were an exploitative, nasty rip-off.
My main of buttermilk fried chicken in the ‘house bun’ was better. The chicken itself was fairly generously portioned and fried well – probably a little too long or hot, because the outside was really crunchy (and broke up a lot when I cut into it), but the (breast) meat was succulent and enjoyable. The ‘house bun’ was a very large floury bap and there was far too much of it to eat as a burger, so I threw away the top half and just ate the rest with my knife and fork.
I’m unclear about what role chicken skin played in the ‘chicken skin gravy’, because it tasted like the gravy I get at my local fish and chip shop, which I mean as praise, but was still not terribly exciting. It went nicely with the chicken.
After that I wasn’t quite full up, but I didn’t fancy staying, so I settled up. £35 for two chicken burgers, two beers and one side isn’t exactly cheap, and I didn’t feel like I’d gotten value for money, but at least the chicken itself was pretty good. The pickle rip-off makes me tempted to give Ma’Plucker an ‘Avoid’ rating, just out of annoyance, but it’s not even that inspiring – it’s just another boring wannabe chain that can’t do it as well as its competition.
Score: No medals.