With retro appeal and a sharp focus on fried chicken, Goldbird, from the team behind Short Order, has landed in Fremantle with spicy tenders, jelly spiders, a killer sandwich and a banana pudding made to share.

Everything is in its place at Goldbird, an homage to the retro fried chicken and soul-food restaurants that pepper Los Angeles and Nashville from the team behind Short Order Burger Co.

Operator Simon Kony has brought together a mishmash of nostalgic ’70s references in everything from the checked tablecloths, to the paper that perfectly nestles your chicken and crinkle cut fries, to the iconic recoleta font adorning the menu and signage, to a website that taps into family-style nostalgia perfectly. Together, it creates a surprisingly cohesive – and instantly recognisable – space dripping with retro homeliness.

We spoke to Kony about how a Coca-Cola logo became integral to the branding, the importance of building great flavour without hiding behind heat, and how Goldbird’s signature fried chicken has been five years in the making.

Goldbird seems to have hit the ground running, what was the vision behind the venue?
It started with a good response to our Nashville Hot Chicken Sandwich at Short Order, but the style has kind of been a Pinterest album of mine for about 10 years – just retro restaurants, diners, milk bars, sandwich bars.

There’s a lot of inspiration from Los Angeles and Nashville chicken spots, like Dave’s Hot Chicken, Howlin’ Ray’s, Hattie B’s, Jim Dandy, Willy Mae’s, and even old-school Pizza Hut, Hungry Jack’s, Red Rooster and Chicken Treat shopfronts. I’ve always loved the look and feel of those places; there’s something homely about them even though they’re commercialised and corporate.

The ’70s and early ’80s really influenced the branding and colours. We specifically used the Coca-Cola logo from 1969-1985 for the branding – you would see that logo on signage and menu boards at restaurants and milk bars. I really wanted to give it as much authenticity as we could, and we kind of worked around that logo.

Obviously fried chicken forms the base of the menu, be it as tenders or in a sandwich.   What does fried chicken look like in Goldbird’s estimation, and what was it about how you approached it that made you think “I can build a venue around this”?
It’s the way we prepare the chicken – we start with a 24-hour brine to maximise water retention during the frying stage and deliver the perfect-tasting chicken tender. We spent way too long on the perfect brine, but we’re very happy with the result.

Then it’s deep-fried, rested, dunked into a chilli-based or flavour-based oil, and then there’s usually a dusting that’s put on: we’ve got four levels of heat, no heat, mild, hot and extra hot, but we worked with the no-heat dusting first because we really wanted to make sure that the chicken was going to taste awesome even without heat. Then for every level we added a new chilli – I can say at some point there is Carolina Reaper in that dusting.

We’ve been tinkering with our fried chicken at Short Order over the last five years, and then for Goldbird it was eight months of playing around with the brine, the flouring, finding the right oil temperature, making sure we were resting it enough. It was a long process.

The menu is short and sweet, with the main offer either tenders or a fried-chicken sandwich before you get to sides and a few plant-based options. How would you describe the menu?
No fuss and simple. There’s only a few options, and we offer different sides to complement it, plus we try our best to cater for our vegetarian and plant-based friends and family.

Walk us through the menu. What should we be ordering to start?
The chicken skin tea sandwich with crackling chicken skin and slaw on soft, white, crustless bread. We usually sell out of that every night, we only make a small amount. It’s quite labour intensive but we love doing it, and the customers really love it.

Then for something more substantial?
Go the sandwich, tender and fries, our most popular meal; most of our first-timers go for this, it’s a great way to try all of what we do best.

You mentioned the sandwich. In your opinion, what makes a great fried chicken burger?
The time and effort that goes into preparing the chicken goes a long way – we start the process at least 26 hours before we open – as well as the usual stuff like texture, choice of cut of chicken (we use tenderloins, which not a lot of places do), then the bun, the sauce, the pickles, the cheese.

It’s important to make sure everything marries up and tastes good together. It’s a bit of trial and error, and it’s just about getting every little thing right.

And what would you recommend to share, or if I didn’t want to eat meat?
Our 10 pack of tenders is the pick for a group. It’ll feed three to ten people depending on how hungry you are.

For vegetarians, our plant-based nuggets have become so popular, even for meat eaters, but we offer a V2 plant-based substitute for any of our meals.

Something sweet to finish?
At the moment we have a Cherry Coke jelly spider, which is a Cherry Coke jelly – made in house – with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream from Gelato Bam Bam, a small local ice-cream business that makes the ice-cream for our desserts and milkshakes.

We also have the banana pudding, which takes inspiration from Magnolia Bakery. And, importantly, you can buy a full tray of that to share.

Goldbird, 3 Cantonment Street, Fremantle; goldbird.com.au; @goldbirdhotchicken

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