What would happen if you took the old rotisserie chicken shop of your childhood memories, and professionalised it into a modern cafe capable of producing the exact same juicy, whole chook every time? Former chef, Jason Pope, has set about finding out; beginning his exploration in Singapore, where he’s owned The Rotisserie for nine years.
After 22 years in Asia, Pope has finally brought those lessons to bear here in Australia, opening up his first corner chook shop meets café called Radley’s.
It’s a little oasis from the madness of Chatswood Chase, with Scandinavian-inspired chairs, padded booths, hanging greenery, and a decent separation between the tables.
We kick off with an Asian-inspired Crispy Chicken and Kimchi Slider ($10/2) from the on-counter chalkboard specials. Bigger than sliders, these are basically small burgers, offering you great value for your spend. Pope ensures the French milk buns are toasted perfectly every time by using a burger bun machine. The buns are soft and tasty, but not so soft the sliders dissolve in your hands before you can eat them. The fried chicken interior is generous and juicy, without being overly fatty, helped along by a crunchy, fresh, house-made kimchi.
Drawing inspiration from Dallas Restaurant & Bar, another of the 28 brands Pope has developed in Asia, the Prime Rib Steak ($15) served with hot chips, is another ridiculously low priced speciality at Radley's. They slow cook a whole Black Angus cube roll in an oven, and then char your sliced off steak upon service. It’s ridiculously tender, with the melted marbled fat flavouring the quality beef, and an absolute bargain at the price.
Fifty thousand dollars of Frymaster equipment in the Radley’s kitchen helps to ensure Hot Chips ($4) are perfect every time. They’re crisp and almost hollow, after being fried for a precise four minutes. “You’ve really got to execute every time,” explains Pope, as I mull over memories of hunting for the few crisp chips in the paper-wrapped bundles I ate as a kid.
Caramelised onions make the Radley’s Beef Burger ($12.50) another nostalgia-inducing winner. With bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, pickles, mustard and their own ‘special sauce’, it’s everything you wished McDonald’s would be, only better. The same Black Angus beef I mentioned earlier is fashioned into a patty that has flavour and texture. Once again, the lightly toasted milk bun holds up well, avoiding a sloppy, drippy disaster.
As for the chicken, you can eat your Lilydale free-range bird as rotisserie chook, or as a panko-crumbed Chicken Schnitzel ($12.50) with your choice of two salads. The salads rotate daily, but you’ll always find the classics like potato salad and coleslaw. Both of them taste like memory against the moist, crumbed chicken, lightly seasoned with their in-house blend. It's a little too lightly for my liking, but with old-fashioned salt & peppershakers in the table, who can complain? You can also level out the light seasoning with their wonderful pan-juices gravy made from the drippings of their rotisserie chook.
Technical precision from a Dutch Fri-Jado rotisserie is only part of what makes a Quarter Rotisserie Chicken ($11.50) with two hot vegetable sides so appealing. Radley’s brine the 1.7kg Lilydale birds with eight secret ingredients overnight. The moisture-infused fowl are treated to a rub, then spend 70 minutes in the oven at 180 degrees Celcius, before landing on your plate.
I was skeptical about the nostalgic aspect of Jason’s dream to “turn that hole in the wall into a café” but the care and attention he has put into professionalising the cooking of each element on every plate really gets Radley's across the line for me. I look forward to visiting their upcoming CBD store, slated to open in July this year.
Chatswood Chase Sydney, Lower Ground Dining Court
345 Victoria Avenue, Chatswood
Ph: (02) 9412 2272