OK so Strut & Cluck does not ONLY serve turkey, that would be seriously odd – they have seasonal vegetables too, but Turkey is the only meat on the menu. Originally a pop-up, they've opened on Shoreditch's Commercial Street ready to satisfy all those turkey cravings that aren't taken care of the one day a year most of us eat it.
The menu is middle eastern inspired and the restaurant itself keeps to the vibe. There are greens and golds and Moroccan blues; a bar in the centre is circled by counter seating. Some plants dangle.
There's a section on Strut & Cluck's website entitled 'Why Turkeys?' It's the only question, really. Just, why? The section mentions sustainable farming, how turkey is a 'superfood' (let's actively ignore that one), and then gives some turkey facts. The section doesn't mention the real issue here – is turkey actually that great to eat?
The answer is a resounding "s'alright."
There isn't a need for a reservation but if you have one you naturally want to mention it to the server that you have one. Here's an initial catch, it's quite hard to find a server on arrival and when you do, you still have to wait until they've finished what they were doing before they seat you. It becomes obvious that the restaurant is understaffed – three people seem to be showing people to seats, making drinks and waiting tables on this fairly busy Thursday evening.
As friendly as the service is, this overwork isn't helping the quality. The waiter comes back to ask again what we ordered a few moments after we had just ordered it.
But the food. The turkey. For Middle Eastern foodie fans the veggie options all seemed great. An aubergine dip was fantastic next to a bowl of tahini, but that niggling sense of disorganisation came back –when there's only four small quarters of warm pitta for scooping, there's no option but to ask for more. When the bill comes, so does an entry for 'extra pitta' – we've been shafted. Less disorganised, more organised crime.
The labneh spread with cherry tomatoes roasted on the vine was tangy. This came with lovely sourdough slices, but again, not many. Across the table. the main turkey escalope was a surprising delight, a good portion of well-seasoned meat alongside some really delicious mash. The other side of the table was happy with their meal. Our side of the table less so.
The charcoal grilled turkey drumstick was, well, that one thing that everyone says about turkey - dry. A green Yemeni zhoug sauce lightly coated its mid-region with pomegranate seeds scattered over it. The green of the zhoug, the red of the pomegranate, the turkey leg – it was like Christmas, just without the joy. It also came with vegetables which only your mum might have forced on you – the roasted white cabbage was exactly how the eight-year-old you envisaged roasted white cabbage.
Espresso and the bill then, espresso and the bill and we'll be outta here. Here comes the espresso, it's nice, now... the bill? Minutes pass. Oh, sir *waves hand as if signing mid air*, he nods, it's coming. He's got a bill there... but oh, it's for the other table, who asked after us. Get the other waiter's attention. Finally... the check, 15 minutes after first asking.
But one more extra surprise, that still water. A glass bottle taken from a cupboard of glass bottles which they filled with still water from a machine right in front of you, it wasn't free...
But aside from all of this, who really wants to eat a bunch of turkey anyway? A friend suggested that it would be filled with protein-craving gym-fiends, but it wasn't, there was just the usual Shoreditch crowd. The prices aren't that bad and the portions are good but a bill that wouldn't have been much bother became annoying when those lines for 'extra pitta' and 'still water bottle' turned up.
We get it, you need a gimmick to be noticed in London's crazy food scene, really we get it. But there's a reason there hasn't been a turkey-only restaurant before. And if there is ever another one, they will hopefully learn from this mistake.