First look inside Norwich’s new fried chicken restaurant Woolf & Bird
PUBLISHED: 14:00 18 March 2017 | UPDATED: 11:17 20 March 2017
Wednesday sees the long-awaited opening of the Woolf & Bird restaurant in Norwich, which recently featured on Channel 4’s Sunday Brunch. For East Anglian business partners and co-owners Francis Woolf and Felix Rehberg it’s been a whirlwind couple of years. We sat down with them to learn more about the men behind the Woolf...
Walking into the premises on Exchange Street you can feel the excitement in the air, but with one week until opening it requires some optimism to see how the box-covered floors and surfaces will be ready for the public in just four days.
Although not unusual for restaurant openings, there is a sense of chaos about the place. They’ve just had the first staff meeting and a lively Woolf shows me the team photographs they’ve just taken on his phone. Unsurprisingly I see it pop up on the Woolf & Bird Facebook page later that day; slightly more unexpectedly, they’ve shared the one Woolf liked the least of himself with their 2,298 followers.
It’s perhaps this self-sacrificing behaviour that has seen the 32-year-old entrepreneur gain such success - whilst he’s also the namesake of thriving Woolf & Social on Nelson Street (you may know it for serving insects) - he insists Woolf & Bird is where it all began.
The best friend duo of 15 years ventured into Woolf & Bird as a pop-up before deciding to take a leap of faith and open a restaurant. When they found an ideal location on Nelson Street they realised very quickly that the style of food for this particular neighbourhood wasn’t going to be free range fried chicken. None-the-less they were inspired by the space and looked to implementing the social eating experience they’d desired in a slightly more formal setting.
The outcome was world-inspired tapas.
The prosperity of this first venture has given them the platform to return to their roots and fulfil their goal of bringing “amazing street food to the city centre” in the form of fried chicken and they’re “absolutely chuffed”.
One thing these boys are keen to hammer home is that all of their chicken is free range and farmed in Norfolk.
“They’re healthy birds that have lived a really great life, you can eat it without any guilt”. Woolf adds. “We’re inspired by the classic chicken shop like KFC but obviously we’re doing it ethically”.
From what I can tell, Woolf & Bird feels like an underground den for the cool kids. Complete with a bar and canteen-like dining area it’s unlike anything the city already offers, further demonstrated by the unusual serving choice of fried chicken paired with bespoke cocktails and sparkling wine. When I express concern about this I swiftly learn that my exclamations of, “Aren’t you meant to have beer with fried chicken?” aren’t the first.
“We want to challenge people’s perceptions, one of the original ideas was to do a champagne and fried chicken bar,” Woolf hits back.
Rehberg insists cocktails and chicken go so well together and they are both quick to boast that they’ll also have a fantastic selection of craft beers and lagers. In the spirit of the unexpected, the guys would push for customers to try their Michelada cocktail, which is essentially a beer based cocktail - the best of both worlds!
The highlight of their journey so far? There’s too many to list, but at Sundown Festival in Norwich last summer UK rapper Kano popped up at their stand and ordered some chicken.
“He came back over and over again,” says Rehberg.
“We basically served Kano and his crew for the whole weekend,” Woolf chips in, adding: “Dizzie-Rascal came and asked for some chicken as well.”
It doesn’t look the excitement will be dying down for the pair anytime soon. Despite Woolf’s impending fatherhood their ambition has not subsided, with further plans for more pop-ups, an active role in The Lanes food scene and, ultimately, to serve a vegan ‘fried chicken’. I’ve been so won over by these two that when Woolf coolly states, “The vibe here will be unique, we’re the only restaurant like this in the country,” I believe him. I’ll see you on Wednesday.