Portuguese that aims to please!
House of Chicken
By Kelly Gavaghan
For the last 3 years or so, foodie friends of mine have been telling me that I should pay the multiple award-winning, House of Chicken in Bletchley a visit. The one and only Portuguese restaurant and takeaway in the area has been on my radar for a long time. However, try as I might, life got in the way and then, of course, the dreaded C hit us, so my visit to this little gem was always getting delayed – until now.
What we ate:
Grilled Chourico - £4.90
Grilled Spiced Black Pudding - £4.90
Codfish Cake - £1.00 each
Whole Chicken - £11.90
Chips - £2.50
Salad - £2.50
House Special - £3.90
Pastel de Nata - £1.50
TOTAL = £34.10
And how was it?
Although owner Miguel suggested that we try the sharing board @ £4.50 to start, Richard was keen to have the famous Portuguese sausages on offer. The Portuguese LOVE their sausages and as these had been imported from the Motherland it seemed too good an opportunity to miss to try the real thing. The Chourico – not to be mistaken for cured Spanish Chorizo – is a dense pork sausage, (made with cubed fatty pork butt) flame-grilled and seasoned with garlic, peppers, red or white wine and a hint of smoky paprika. The texture of the Spiced Black Pudding – or ‘Blood Sausage’ was as smooth as satin beneath the crispy skin and the seasoning of cayenne pepper, red wine, garlic and black pepper really worked in perfect harmony to create a distinctively rich and flavoursome taste. You can see why the Portuguese love it so much!
Our Pasteis de Bacalhau, otherwise known as salt cod fritters, are fried torpedo-shaped patties made with potatoes, onion and parsley. Crispy on the outside and soft as a cloud on the inside, much like a Spanish Potato Croquette. They are a popular and tasty appetiser and can be eaten at any time of the day - and are, all across Portugal. We both really liked these and could have eaten a pile of them easily washed down with a cool pint of Super Bock lager that House of Chicken have on tap.
This was a simple meal but was simply done oh-so-well and was lip-smackingly DELICIOUS!
But when you are at the House of Chicken what else is there to have for your main but a whole spit roast bird. And oh, my word! I can see what everyone has been raving about. The chicken was beautifully charred from the flame grilling, superbly succulent and was smothered in owner, Maggie’s secret garlic sauce. It was AMAZING! This was accompanied by hand-cut REAL CHIPS (something I am a stickler for – if a place can’t be bothered to make their own chips, then I can’t be bothered to eat there.) This was a simple meal but was simply done oh-so-well and was lip-smackingly DELICIOUS!
This was accompanied by a simple serving of rice that had been cooked with some diced onions and olive oil and a nice fresh garden salad of lettuce, cucumber and tomatoes.
Although we were stuffed, owner Miguel, insisted that we try the homemade Pastel de Nata (egg custard). This was the perfect crispy, flaky pastry cup encasing a creamy, sweet and custardy filling, caramelized on top and dusted with a little cinnamon powder. The 'House Special' was Maggie’s own creation and was a light and lovely dessert, with multiple thin layers of creamy caramel mousse/whip with biscuit crumbs which created a smooth yet crunchy texture. The whole meal was – as the Portuguese say - Perfeita!
The décor, hospitality and food itself is unpretentious and authentic - and we loved it!
What’s it like there?
The décor, hospitality and food itself is unpretentious and authentic - and we loved it! Owners and husband and wife team, Miguel and Maggie are down to earth, passionate, bubbly, good-humoured and friendly and you can see that they have a great relationship with ALL their customers. The business itself includes a takeaway, restaurant and small shop and there is a constant stream of people collecting orders, dining in or picking up a few Portuguese products from the shop to the rear of the building.
The restaurant is wood lined and has seating for around 20 people. We asked Miguel if he wanted to expand and his answer was a resounding 'no!' He and Maggie are very happy with their lot and like that their business is doing just fine as it is. They are always fully booked and really have a great relationship with their regulars that include many of the Spanish workforce from Santander, other restauranteurs and of course the hoards of fans who are 'in on the secret' and dine with them regularly.
The decor puts me in mind of little 'hole in the wall' Tascas and Tavernas in the Med, with its wood panelling, promotional liquor posters, flags draped around the ceiling, wines on display etc. It's one of those places that does what it says on the tin. But the atmosphere and hospitality are what makes this place. We couldn't have been made to feel more welcome and witnessed Maggie and Miguel extending the same warmth to EVERYONE that walked through the door. We feel as though we have made some new friends - and that's a very nice feeling indeed.
What you should know
The menu is small but perfectly formed. Flame-grilled chicken obviously features as does Pork and Beef Steak - Portuguese style, of course!
They also serve the famous Portuguese sandwich entitled Franceshina which originates from Porto and is a gut-busting, multi-layered affair of beef steak, sausage, cured meats, bread and topped with cheese, covered in a beer sauce and served with fries.
The good selection of Portuguese wines offers amazing value and are great for easy drinking as Portuguese wines are often of remarkable quality. Miguel also insisted on pouring Rich and I a couple of the famous liquors; Licor Beirao and another, Licor 35 Pastel de Nata, which is like a Portuguese version of Baileys and slipped down very nicely indeed.
The small shop sells only Portuguese produce and there's a freezer full of fishy favourites including salt cod and octopus and the shelves are adorned with packets of Palmiers, spices and many more marvels from the Med.
Did I mention that House of Chicken is extremely popular? I can't stress this enough as they are often fully booked so booking well in advance is recommended. But if you can't get a seat, don't worry as you can always opt for a takeaway, pick up a chicken and chips, grab a bottle of wine and enjoy an easy evening at home eating this fabulous food with friends. Please note though that they are closed on Mondays & Tuesdays.
Would we go back?
Yes, yes, and yes again! We walked away absolutely in love with the food, the owners and with a warm glow in our hearts and in our tummies. We are already planning our next trip back and will be taking a few of our friends.
House of Chicken
200 Whaddon Way
T - 01908 370013
COME ON BABY LIGHT MY FIRE!
Chourico, Morcela (Blood Sausage), Pasteis de Bachalua (Salt Cod Fritters).
Flame-grilled chicken smothered in Maggie's secret garlic sauce.
Homemade Pastel de Nata
Miguel & Maggie! Even though this picture is blurry I think it captures their personalities perfectly. :) Warm, good-humoured and happy people! Just lovely...