An awful lot of people have fled London during the pandemic and I can’t be the only one thinking that most of them seem to have been replaced by French bulldogs. It is hard to cross a street in the capital without seeing at least one of them strutting, chest forward, taking their humans for a walk. In fact, they usually come in pairs, as if one doesn’t quite make a full pet.

With their massive ears, squashed noses and porcine bodies, French bulldogs are also the Instabreed du jour. Up close, they are as delightful in real life as they are online — but where did they all come from? Puffed up with pride, they leave no doubt as to who runs this town. When the plague is over, will they give us back our streets? Where is the line between abundance and occupation? When it comes to French bulldogs, can there be too much of a good thing?

When it comes to cooking, this is usually true. Good cooking is all about balance and restraint, using just the right amounts so that every ingredient gets to shine, but not outshine, to achieve a harmonious result. Except that isn’t true in this recipe. There are lots of herbs here, a ridiculous number — they might even outnumber London’s French bulldog community — and that is just the starting point. You can double or triple the quantities and still not have too much. And it’s not just about volume but variety. You can throw in every herb you have — dill, basil, coriander, sage, anything. With the salty, savoury chicken, the bright lemon, sweet butter and heady garlic, there is enough flavour in this dish to absorb as much herby freshness as you could wish for. Just follow a simple principle: hardy herbs at the beginning, soft herbs towards the end.

The great delights of this spatchcocked chicken begin long before you eat it. The aromas from your oven will fill your home in a way that no candle could ever match. Close your eyes, breathe it in — and listen to all the Frenchies in the street howling with hunger.

Dinner for four

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