Did I ever tell you about my time in EastEnders?
For twelve months during the mid nineties, supposedly as a hand to mouth living student, I lived in north London’s leafy affluent suburb Muswell Hill. I could relate numerous things that happened that year but will focus on the Albert Square connection for today.
I don’t know if they do now but back then a lot of actors from EastEnders lived in Muswell Hill and nearby East Finchley. I’ve lived all over London for nearly twenty five years and nowhere else I’ve lived or regularly wandered through has ever had the same celeb spotting potential as Muswell Hill.
A typical evening included waiting inline at the ATM next to Michelle Gayle’s onscreen boyfriend Steve, going into the Seven Eleven and being in the queue with Aidan, as you walk over the zebra crossing to the pub, Bianca has pulled up in her car and when you finally get inside the dodgy local club (the defunct Manhattan Lights once used to film a shoot-out in The Professionals), who should be gazing across the dancefloor with a beer bottle in his hand but Phil Mitchell?*
That at that time minus glasses, I wore a black biker jacket and my hair in a blonde bob and thus regularly asked by strangers whether I was Cindy Beale i.e. actress Michelle Collins – only added to the surreal effect. She lived under a mile away, although not someone I ever bumped into, so it wasn’t an entirely ridiculous error.
My all time favourite moment in Muswell Hill was once walking past the fruit and veg stall when passing me at the same time was actor Todd Carty, AKA Mark Fowler who in EastEnders memorably ran the fruit and veg stall. We each looked at the veg stall and gave each other an amused look acknowledging that this was a peculiar moment of fiction meeting reality.
And it was a few steps from this location and in the shadow of many other old haunts I found myself visiting Chooks chicken restaurant of Muswell Hill Broadway with Nick and Ted.
Chooks is not yet a chain but it would make a good one. It’s a chicken version of Gourmet Burger Kitchen but serves the food on paper lined trays the way I’ve seen it served in MeatLiquor. There’s a family friendly atmosphere and the retro styling will appeal to Generation Xers.
We devoured ribs, chicken, onion rings and chips. The portions are generous and I was relieved only to have ordered the half rack of ribs. The menu is very American diner with the focus naturally on chicken.
Chicken burgers are around £8 with chips charged separately, non burger main courses are around £10 to £15 with the “Whole Chicken Tray Dinner” being the most expensive at £23.95 including several side dishes but presumably enough for two people (the menu doesn’t say). There’s a dedicated kids’ menu complete with colouring sheet and in house colouring competition (the entries are pegged up to look at).
Should you have vegetarians in your party, they do a vegetarian burger and three vegetarian salads. But I don’t have a clue whether those were any good as we were in full on meat mode. After a morning’s saunter around Muswell Hill Broadway, the food was spot on.
Two downsides though: I can’t find a mention on the menu whether the chicken was freerange which leads me to suspect it isn’t. But I’ll update this if I hear otherwise. Secondly I didn’t dig the whacky joke graffiti decor in the loos. They’re clean and perfectly serviceable but the dim lighting and mock graffiti makes the loos feel dingy.
Plus points though for the wicked football table out back and the jelly egg sweets upon leaving are a cute touch.
Not that I need much excuse to revisit my old stamping ground but I’d go back again and indeed have done so since this visit back in April.
43 The Broadway
Twitter & Instagram: @chookschickens
*Okay these four moments didn’t take place within five minutes of each other but I promise you each of these instances did happen.
Wow you certainly had a star-studded time there – even if those events didn’t happen that close together 😉
I remember you with hair like that when you first met nick. Was that pizza express still there? Or was it where Chooks is now?
Sarah, Maison Cupcake says
Pizza Express is still on the main roundabout at top of Muswell Hill itself although the rest of stuff on that roundabout has changed a lot. Chooks is down towards Sainsburys, I think it was a branch of Ask Pizza before.
Urvashi Roe says
I once met my hubby for lunch in a cafe in Oakwood and sat next to Grant Mitchell. Have seen Denise a fair few times in Westfield Stratford too. Very random. Anyhow back to the chook. I don’t eat meat but I think the girls would love this place as much as ted seemed to.
Love the blonde biker girl look! And how funny that so many Eastenders actors gravitated there… wonder why.
Katie Bryson (@cookingkt) says
I would not have recognised you from that picture Sarah with that blonde hair!!!! What a great trip down your memory lane… loving that it was kind of an EastEnders Cast Ghetto… wish i’d known as i’d have been over like a shot! Chooks sounds like a fun place to eat, and good to hear that they’ve got veggie options too. Would like to know more about the welfare background of the chickens though…
Jeanne Horak-Druiff says
Holy cow – look at you and your blonde bob! Love it! As I have never watched an episode of Eastenders in my life (FACT!) I suspect I would not find Muswell Hill nearly as exciting a place as you did back then – but Chooks looks like a fun reason to visit. Love the egg sweets!