Chiquen, as the name suggests is a restaurant that specialises in chicken dishes; taking inspiration from fowls that are served by street vendors, canteens, grills and shacks from around the world. Their aim is to accentuate the flavour of their poultry by marrying it with their special sauces and marinades.
Chiquen is located in the ubiquitous halal Mecca of Wood Green, tucked away in The Mall shopping centre, serving a full halal menu.
The venue is spacious and deceptively large, with an exotic Caribbean theme running through the decor, with planks of wood and timber furnishing creating a hut/shack style design, along with bold and bright rustic colours, all assisting to transport the diner to a tropical beach paradise. There is also a sense of humour and fun in the motif of the restaurant, with a number of paraphernalia, misspelled signages and posters further enhancing the relaxed and laid back atmosphere associated with the tropics.
For starters, from the “Small Bites” section of the menu, we ordered “Garlic Pita Strips”, “Salsa with Tortilla Chips” and “4 Fire Grilled Winglets”.
“Garlic Pita Strips” were mild in flavour and something that could easily be picked up from you local supermarket. This was not an unpleasant offering, but just mundane. If the pita bread was freshly baked and fresh herbs and spices were used, then Chiquen could have made this into a memorable and gourmet dish.
The “Salsa with Tortilla Chips”, was once again an ordinary dish, which required fresh chillies and more herbs to give the Salsa a well deserved kick and flavour.
“4 Fire Grilled Winglets” came with no seasoning or marinade, so there was only a subtle piquancy of the charcoal grill. The winglets were essentially a canvas, to be used to experience the taste of Chiquen’s special sauces.
There are four sauces to choose from to give the chicken greater depth of flavour.
The “Sicilian Mild Sauce” had a Mediterranean essence to it, as it was tangy, zesty and herby in flavour, but slightly a bit too salty for my taste, yet possibly my favourite sauce from the options available.
“Old Delhi Spicy Sauce” was mediocre at best, as the sauce lacked any spice and was too mild in flavour. Was hoping for a burst of authentic curry spices to exude through, but alas, had no discernible Asian flavours.
The “Mozambique Fiery Sauce” was a close contender to being my favourite. The sauce had a slight South American vibe, with the chilli heat making my palate bubble and boil with addictive edacious pleasure, however, it was once again slightly a bit too salty.
“Malaccan Volcanic Sauce” had heat, but the taste for some unknown reason was bland and lacking Malaysian influence in piquancy.
For mains we ordered “5 Chicken Breast Fillets”, “10 Fire Grilled Wings”, “Half Fired Grilled Chicken”, “Double Chicken Burger” and a “Caesar Salad with Chicken”.
The “5 Chicken Breast Fillets” were dry, lacking seasoning and visually unappealing. However, the fillets we presume are intentionally without any flavour so to be a blank canvas for dipping into their signature sauces.
“10 Fire Grilled Wings” were a joy to eat, with its smokey, slightly spiced marinade and charcoal grill flavour emanating through. The wings were also cooked well, succulent and tender. If the Chicken Winglets and Breast Fillets, described earlier were cooked in the same marinade as these Fire Grilled Wings, it would truly transform both dishes from average to sensational.
The “Half Fired Grilled Chicken” was a combination of delight and disappointment. The leg portion of the chicken was moist, supple and divine, with a flavoursome crispy skin, coating the succulent chicken meat. The breast portion of the chicken was unfortunately dry, therefore defusing the potential flavours and diminishing the overall the gastronomical experience.
The “Double Chicken Burger” arrived looking like a towering inferno of delight, with the golden egg yolk nectar trickling surreptitiously down the burger monolith. Unfortunately the burger lacked flavour, which combined with the dehydrated chicken breast and bun, absorbed any moistness from the dish, giving me cotton mouth. There was no sauce within the burger or any component in the burger that had flavour, which was such a disappointment. However, we are once again assuming that the intention is to make this burger your own by adding their signature sauces, because all that was required to save this burger was to ensure the chicken breast was moist, marinated, and had a huge dollop of condiment, which would guarantee the burger to be flavoursome.
“Caesar Salad with Chicken” was the surprising victor out of the mains that we tried. The chicken strips were glazed with sensually sweet marinade and the strips were moist and tender. The juicy crunchy fresh lettuce combined with the Caesar dressing was tantalisingly delicious; with the crushed black pepper and croutons providing greater depth in flavour. A dish truly worth ordering at Chiquen.
For drinks we had the “Mint Chiqui Cooler”, “Salted Caramel Milkshake” and “Pineapple Chiqui Cooler”.
“Mint Chiqui Cooler” was refreshing and thirst quenching, but the flavours were not prominent. It needed the mint to be bolder, and the drink needed to be more sweet and tart in flavour. The “Salted Caramel Milkshake’s” texture had good consistency; frothy and thick on top, and fluid and liquid at the bottom. There were segments of salted caramel in the shake, which were delightful in taste. This was a pleasant shake.
“Pineapple Chiqui Cooler” to my tastebuds tasted too much like coconut milk and not so much pineapple.
No meal is ever complete without a superstar dessert. We opted for the “Chocolate Fudge Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream”. The cake was moist and rich and the ice cream pleasant; not so much a decadent dessert, but more a homely, satisfactory one.
Chiquen is a cheeky restaurant offering great service and a wonderful environment to dine at. The food on offer is not revolutionary but more “in progress”. There are some components of the menu that work well, offering satisfaction to the tastebuds and other components which we believe requires more attention. However, our understanding is that Chiquen’s intention is for the dishes to act as a blank canvas to try the signature sauces and find your favourite. In terms of the sheer fun factor of the decor, the competitive prices – with a main dish starting from £7 to the most expensive main being £13 – and the efficient service, Chiquen does offer a little something that does need to be experienced by all us halal food adventurers.
Follow Chiquen’s Halal Food Journey for a totally tropical time.
*We were invited to review.