Words by Christina Dean

It’s no secret that Londoners love chicken – from a cheeky Nando’s to six wings and chips from the local chicken shop to a whole bird for a Sunday roast, chicken is ever-present on the menus of top-end restaurants and high street joints alike. Now with a new wave of rotisserie chicken restaurants opening, a new (or should that be old?) style of bird is flying onto our plates.

Roasting chicken on a rotating spit has a long history; depictions of the cooking method can be seen in medieval artwork across Europe and Napoleon Bonaparte was apparently a big fan of rotisserie chicken. With Ridley Scott’s Napoleon movie coming out soon, could this be the perfect viewing snack? (note: probably best not to try and sneak a whole chicken into the cinema, no one wants to hear the rattle of bones). In the late 20th and early 21st century, rotisserie chicken became conflated with cheapness thanks to supermarkets using the cooked birds as “loss leaders”, selling them at a lower price than raw chickens to entice people into stores in the hope that they’d make additional purchases. 

Many countries have a tradition of cooking chicken this way but here in London, there’s been something of a rotisserie renaissance. This started with the much-loved (and much-missed) Royale, the rotisserie chicken spin-off from Leroy that started as a lockdown delivery concept and turned into a permanent fixture at the East London Liquor Co. in Bow. Royale’s Provençal-style rotisserie Anjou birds with dripping potatoes, cooked in a vintage Rotisol, really tapped into the hunger for nostalgia and comfort food that people were feeling during the pandemic and reminded us just how good a simple rotisserie chicken can be. Royale closed in December 2022 but rotisserie chicken has found itself in vogue once again. 

Tom Sellers has built quite the rep for modern reimaginings of classic dishes and with Story Cellar in Neal’s Yard, a continuation of his debut Restaurant Story, he’s taken on the rotisserie chicken. The menu at the Parisian-inspired Story Cellar centres around rotisserie chicken, whole or half, served with house salad and fries alongside a list of fine wines. Bob Bob Ricard, famous for its ‘press for Champagne’ buttons and caviar on everything, is also taking the rotisserie bird luxe with new Soho spin-off restaurant Bébé Bob. There French birds will be carved tableside and served with chicken jus and sides like truffle fries, sauteed kale and Albufeira sauce.

And the rotisserie revolution isn’t just happening at the higher end of the spectrum. Peruvian spot Lima Floral in Covent Garden is flipping to Lima Cantina where pollo a la brasa, aka Peruvian roast chicken (a dish apparently more popular than ceviche), will be at the heart of the menu. The new-look restaurant will be cooking its spice-marinated birds in a rotombo, a traditional Peruvian charcoal-rotisserie oven that gets smoke into the meat as well as keeping the skin crispy. Brothers Adam and Sam Reid have been serving up their signature tropical spice-rubbed rotisserie chicken alongside coconut rice, spiced chicken gravy, purple slaw and hot sauce, at Rotorious in Peckham’s Market Stalls since last summer and it’s been going down so well that the pair are actively looking for a second site. Sounds like the rotisserie trend will just keep on turning.