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Posted on Wed 15 Dec 2021
Shrewsbury has been crying out for a speciality chicken restaurant for some time. Dough And Oil has perfected the town's pizza offering, House Of Yum has got Thai sewn up, Umai serves exemplary Japanese cuisine and Casa Naranjo offers tapas that rivals dishes I’ve enjoyed in Spain.
My partner and I used to have to travel to Birmingham for a decent wing, but now - thanks to Tap And Can owners Andy Hooper and Rachael Jones, alongside Head Chef Tom Cooke - we don't have to. In fact, our journey to the Town of Flowers’ newest venue, Bird & Beer, is approximately three minutes from door to door!
The wonderful Tap And Can is our local, just a stone's throw away from its new sister venue - Shrewsbury Railway Station - and more importantly, our house. As the name suggests, it boasts 14 rotating beer lines and 100-plus cans and bottles. It’s an absolute beer haven, packed to the rafters with friendly people, adorable dogs and (of course) great beer. The reputation Andy and Rachael have built for themselves in just two short years is admirable, particularly considering the fact that they’ve been closed for a good chunk of that time due to the pandemic.
Taking all of the above into account, you can imagine our delight when they told us about their new venture.
My partner and I entered Bird & Beer on a wet Monday evening to Fleetwood Mac's Big Love, which earned the venue a tick from me even before we reached our table.
The decor is well thought out and boasts a red & black interior, contemporary lighting and some personal touches - Bird & Beer-branded cushions and artwork, as well as a neon light in the window. It’s comfortable too, with a chilled atmosphere to match - a necessity when your carnivorous side strikes and you’re pulling apart chicken wings, licking hot sauce off your fingers, or in my case dropping nacho cheese sauce down my jeans.
The menu is simple. Choose from three or five wings or strips, then select your sauce. Options include Naked, BBQ Saucery, SY Thai, Buffalo and Cluckin’ Hot. There are sharing platters for four or six people - which include all or a mix of the above - a children’s menu, halloumi strips for veggies, and vegan tenders. There’s also a choice of fries. Burgers will be introduced to the menu at a later date.
We opted for three strips in SY Thai and three in BBQ Saucery, as well as three wings in Buffalo and three in Cluckin’ Hot, so as to try all the available sauces. They arrived on a platter accompanied by a blue cheese dip (which comes with the buffalo wings/strips) and a pot of slaw each. We chose the nacho cheese loaded fries and Tuk Tuk fries to accompany the chicken.
First up, the SY Thai strips. They were huge! And as was the case with all four dishes, the chicken itself was succulent and cooked perfectly. The coating was thick, crispy and seasoned nicely, while the SY Thai sauce, made from soy, honey and sriracha, was everything it should be - sweet and sticky with a subtle kick. We were impressed from the word go.
We know that the chicken is good - sourced locally from Shropshire farms, the wings are marinaded in buttermilk for 24 hours, tossed in house flour and fried - but what about the rest of the sauces (all of which are homemade)?
The sweet and fruity Magic Rock Saucery IPA is used in BBQ Saucery, alongside fresh garlic and smokey spices. Smothered generously all over those monster strips and topped with crispy bacon and onions, this is in no way just a bog-standard BBQ sauce.
The Cluckin’ Hot sauce, meanwhile, is made from fresh garlic, ginger and scotch bonnet chillies topped with a generous amount of shredded jalapeño, chillies and ground chilli flakes. Certainly hot enough to make you sweat (my partner more so than me!), it may or may not blow your head off… Try for yourself to see.
An American classic, the buffalo wings accompanied by the beautifully flavoured blue cheese dip were delicious. Alongside the SY Thai strips, they were the highlight of the evening. The fries were tasty, too!
That’s the Bird covered - now for the Beer. On the taps are Paulaner - Munchner Hell (a 4.9% lager) and two session IPAs: Magic Rock - Saucery and Lervig - House Party. In the fridge is a range of craft beers, sours and stouts on rotation, and for non-beer drinkers a selection of wines, spirits, ciders, fizz and softies.
Bird & Beer’s prices are more than reasonable, making it a great choice for families, friends, students and just about anyone who likes fried chicken or the restaurant's vegetarian and vegan options.
I have no doubt that Andy, Rach and the team will make a great success of Bird & Beer. It’s a fantastic and much-needed addition to the town, and a venue, alongside its big sister, that I'll be spending a lot of time in. Fried chicken lovers, rejoice!
Reviewed by Lauren Foster, December 2022
Bird & Beer, Chronicle House, 6 Castle Foregate, Shrewsbury, SY1 2DJ.
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