Thursday, 29 September 2011

KFC World Tour, Part 6: Australia

Departing from Christchurch in New Zealand, I made the 2,500 mile/3.5 hour journey west to Australia, the 6th largest country in the world. Over the month that followed, I travelled my way down the east coast and experienced the best of what Oz had to offer. Naturally, one of the experiences I was most excited about was sampling KFC down under. After tasting the delights of neighbouring New Zealand, I was keen to get stuck in!

During my journey in Australia, I visited several KFCs but unfortunately I was not able to document every single one (through lack of time, lack of camera and lack of long-term memory...too many schooners) but I made sure to visit KFC for one final blow-out meal before I left Sydney. As it happens, I was in Sydney over the festive period, and this meal made for one of the most delicious Christmas day lunches I've ever had. Many thanks to you, Colonel.

On a warm, sunny Christmas day (yes, it was quite strange!), I made my way down from my hostel to the KFC branch at 766 George Street. In stark contrast to the branch I reviewed in New Zealand, this Sydney branch sported modern, up-to-date decor and a split level kitchen/serving counter and seating area design. The key feature which stood out for me was an open plan entrance, leading out on to the street. With an open frontage, this KFC had a cosmopolitan street cafe/bistro feel - something I'd love to see in the UK but I fear our terrible weather would lay my dreams to rest.

On to the menu. At first glance, it was practically identical to that seen in New Zealand with Ultimate Burger meals, All Star box meals, and Tower Legends range (all very interesting).

I decided to treat myself (it was Christmas after all!) and ordered a selection of the finest items. My meal consisted of a Nacho Cheese Tower burger, fries, a side of mashed potato with gravy, some Kentucky Nuggets and a drink. One thing in particular to note here are the Kentucky Nuggets: according to the menu image, these little bite sized chunks of chicken look much like traditional chicken nuggets found at certain clown-based rival fast-food chains, but I was keen to see how they compared to their little and big siblings; Popcorn Chicken and the Mini Fillet.

First up, the burger. A subtle but effective change, the standard cheese slice had been replaced with a warm, oozing nacho cheese sauce, which when combined with the crunchy corn chip layer and salsa provided a satisfying spicy savoury flavour. However, the hash brown acted like a sponge and seemed to soak up the cheese sauce, resulting in a soggy mess. This could have been prevented by changing the stacking order, or simply eating the burger quicker! All in a all, a very welcome addition to the Tower line.

The Kentucky Nuggets appeared to have an Original Recipe coating, but on closer inspection and tasting, they were far more similar to the flavour of Popcorn Chicken. They also appeared to be constructed from chopped and formed chicken, much like Popcorn Chicken, rather than breast strips. Although the Kentucky Nuggets were good, I couldn't help but think I'd rather opt for Crispy Strips or Mini Fillets for the true Original Recipe experience.

Finally, a KFC staple: mash and gravy. I say staple, but for some reason the mash and gravy side has never arrived in the UK even though it is widely available in other territories. This makes me sad, because it was the highlight of my meal! The gravy was thick and creamy, the mashed potato smooth, light and fluffy and perfect for dipping. An excellent partner for a box meal, and if only it was available back home, mash and gravy would be my side of choice.

All good things must come to an end sadly, and my trip was no exception. The final leg of my journey saw me stopping off in Singapore for a few days before heading home. Stay tuned for my final post coming soon, where I will reveal the strange and wonderful findings of Singaporean KFC!

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

KFC World Tour, Part 5: New Zealand

Arriving in New Zealand was like arriving back home. After the strange surroundings of China and Thailand (I didn't review KFC in Thailand as fellow blogger Albad has already done it) the green hills and moderate climate felt like a very welcome return to normality and I was hungry to start exploring...but also hungry, literally hungry, to find the nearest KFC and tuck into some delicious poultry.

After a few days of non-stop travel and activities I finally came across my first Kiwi KFC. The restaurant in question was a small branch next to a retail park in the town of Thames, at the south-western end of the Coromandel Peninsula, North Island. The restaurant exterior harked back to the old days, with retro graphics, that nostalgic colour scheme and even the bygone KFC-bucket-on-a-pole signage.

Inside, I headed straight for the counter, keen to survey the menu.

My attention was immediately captivated by the extensive menu featuring some very interesting products. Take, for example, a range of different Twisters (sweet chilli, pepper mayo, supercharged), "Quarter Pack" Original Recipe box meals (featuring bread roll, mash and gravy) and finally a superb range of burger box meals similar to those available in the UK. As if that wasn't enough, the Tower Burger menu featured 2 distinct variations: a BBQ Bacon Tower and Supercharged Tower (once featured as a TLO in the UK).

I opted for the Supercharged Tower Burger meal deal and ordered. Service was brisk and friendly, with my meal arriving in front of me before I even had time to fish enough dollars out of my pocket to pay. Interestingly, the chips arrived in their own container box, similar to Popcorn chicken in the UK. The box was stuffed to the brim with chips, some even forcing their way out of the lid. The quantity contained within didn't seem to be quite the same as what you would expect from a regular sized meal in the UK, but I admired the way in which the box provided protection from the elements and potential spills, whilst ensuring the chips stayed piping hot.

First bite, and the Supercharged Tower Burger was an instant win. The moist, plump chicken breast within immediately brought up memories of every delicious Fillet Tower Burger I've ever had, and it was apparent that the quality of chicken here in New Zealand was up to the same high standards as back home. The rest of the burger followed suit; crisp hash brown, tasty cheese and a spicy supercharged sauce. Admittedly, the size of the chicken breast was somewhat lacking (compared to UK standards) and the lettuce could have been a little fresher.

At the end of the day though, I just couldn't get over the delicious range of meals on offer in New Zealand. Everything from original recipe to box meals and burgers felt different, new and innovative. This may be standard fare over in NZ, but here's to hoping that some of these ideas and flavours make their way to Europe. During the rest of my tour of NZ, I tried one of the Quarter Pack meals and BBQ Bacon Tower, all with similar high quality results.

In the next part of my KFC World Tour, I stop off in Australia to compare how fried chicken down under compares to it's neighbouring New Zealand, and of course, here back home. Until then!

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

KFB does Taco Bell

An introduction to Taco Bell
For all you readers out there who aren't aware of the intricacies of Yum! Brands, parent company of KFC, you might not be aware that they also own Pizza Hut and more importantly, Taco Bell. My experience with the latter dates back to teenage trips to Canada in the late 90s. I recall being incredibly confused by the fact that a Taco Bell adjoined every single KFC we came across and decided that the only course of action was to give it a go. Now this was no minor undertaking my friends - you have to bear in mind here that I was effectively eschewing the Colonel in favour of an unknown quantity. My decision was a wise one, for Taco Bell, in my humble opinion, equals the deliciousness of KFC.

For years I wandered the streets of England, distraught at the fact that the last time Taco Bell had been available in the UK was back in the very early 1990s, as evidenced by the following photo of the Coventry St branch (where a very large KFC now resides).

Back in 2009 though we heard whispers that a brand spanking new Taco Bell was to open in none other than...Lakeside Shopping Centre. Ok, so that last part wasn't so great but we were willing to travel as far as it took to sample the Mexican magic.

The tasting
And so I found myself en route to glorious Essex on a warm summer's day, mouths watering at the thought of what lay ahead. Upon arrival at Lakeside (just 25 mins out of London on the train) I headed straight for the food court and was greeted by the following:

The excitement now reaching fever point I half-jogged over to the purple paradise. The rumours were true: Taco Bell really was back in the UK.

Time for the eating to commence. Wanting to sample as many menu items as possible (of which there are very many as evidenced in the above photo which you can click to enlarge), I decided the only thing for it was to eat both lunch and dinner at this establishment. I started with the Crunchwrap Supreme and noticed that I could add a taco for just 89p. Clearly I opted for the latter too, choosing a soft chicken taco.

Crunchwrap Supreme
It's big. It's also extremely familiar. You see, KFC has effectively been selling a version of the Crunchwrap Supreme for quite some time here in the UK (albeit as a time limited offer item) and labelling it the Wrapstar. We assume Taco Bell was there first though, given the presence of the wrap and tostada - both classic Mexican additions. 

The first flavour to hit me was the nacho cheese sauce - a personal favourite though an acquired taste. The assemblers were slightly over-eager with the lettuce but we'll forgive them this minor sin. The tostada (hence where the 'Crunch' in the name comes from) was a nice addition but not as crunchy as it perhaps should have been. The beef was flavoursome albeit slightly lacking in texture and the accompanying Mexican fries were a  welcome side. Overall, a filling, delectable treat.

Soft chicken taco

Given the bargain price I wasn't expecting much from this smaller accompaniment. How wrong I was. The shredded chicken was highly flavoursome and I could really pick out the individual flavours in this one - the cheddar being particularly noticeable. Top tip: make sure you opt for the 'Supreme' version which adds sour cream and diced tomato for a lot of extra freshness.

Dinner: Volcano burrito

For those that aren't aware, the 'Volcano' in this menu item equates to the addition of cheesy molten hot lava sauce to the standard burrito. Again a rather sizeable item and tasty but somewhat cloying in the mouth. The addition of lettuce or tomato would make a nice difference to this one. Spiciness-wise we're not talking set your mouth on fire levels here but there was definitely a pleasant enough zing.

Surprise addition: Beef Taco Supreme

Upon collecting my Volcano Burrito I was presented with a 'Saved by the Bell' loyalty card which had been stamped once. Perplexed, I studied further and found that Taco Bell's loyalty card offers you a free item every second time you purchased from them. Given that the menu is already extremely good value, this was a real turn out for the books. Naturally, I mentioned that I had purchased lunch earlier and was given another stamp, meaning I was owed a Crunchy Taco Supreme. Hence this final meal element.

The taco once again proved itself surprisingly simple, fresh and delicious. However, my over-eagerness to get out of Lakeside (i'd been there for several hours at this point) meant I was rushing and managed to crush the shell to many tiny pieces making it incredibly hard to eat. For this reason alone it earns a point less than it's soft-shelled cousin.

One more thing: the sauces

The sauces at Taco Bell are almost as important as the main menu items - they're that good. Assembled above are the four options, all bearing a variety of zany phrases on their fronts. In order we have:
Verde: This reminded me of jalapeños and was the freshest tasting of all the sauces. Awesome.
Mild: Some hints of McDonald's sweet and sour sauce but with extra zing. Another great option.
Hot: Some strange spices at play here with an almost cinnamon taste. Not great.
Fire: Bizarrely, just not that hot. 3rd best out of the 4 but still a worthy addition to those main menu items.

Closing thoughts:
Lip-smackingly (not finger-lickingly of course) delicious. 

Thursday, 9 June 2011

A month sans Colonel

"You won't be able to eat spicy foods. Or anything fatty. Or drink any alcohol. For at least a month"

Such were the instructions emanating from the doctor's mouth in response to a dastardly stomach complaint I'd been suffering from. At first it didn't really hit me - I'd already gone a month without alcohol earlier in the year so I'd at least had a dry run (pun intended). And of course it would mean avoiding most Indian and Thai food which I love. But there was a niggling feeling that I was overlooking something...Oh God.

No KFC for a month.

Having overcome the initial week of constant sobbing I surmised that the only way to get through the pain would be to document my month sans Colonel. This, my readers, is the result:

Day -1: The last supper. I decided the only thing for it was to have one final KFC ahead of my course of medication. Naturally, I opted for a Zinger Tower meal. It remains the most bittersweet chicken I have ever tasted; the knowledge of the impending depression hanging over me like a grey cloud. I took a photo for posterity:

Day 7: The cravings were beginning to preoccupy my every waking moment. Performance at work was degrading. The relationship with my girlfriend suffering. The uncontrollable shakes. Well ok it wasn't that bad yet but the worst was still to come.

Day 10: A third of the way there and i'd taken to browsing fast food menus on websites in order to stave off the cravings. Having exhausted the Colonel's own offerings I moved on to sister company Taco Bell UK's site. If only they'd open more UK branches - I could actually eat their low fat 'Fresco' options during this month of pain.

Day 17: Over half way and still no end in sight. Two so called 'friends' i'm out with both order Zinger Towers, one even having the audacity to include a sweet chilli hot rod. Strong as ever though, I resisted. Well, I almost resisted. The lure of the gravy was too strong and I just had to dunk one of my low-fat Snack-a-Jacks in it. The result: an unpleasant mixture of salt & vinegar rice snack and otherwise delicious three step.

Day 25: Everywhere I turn, the Godfather box meal is staring me straight in the face. Telephone booths, tube posters, TV - it's everywhere! The mere thought of a hot rod is enough to make me salivate. Why must you torture me so, oh Colonel?

Day 30: I can no longer feel feelings. Devoid of emotion, I stumble past the Colonel's smiling face at my local branch. It barely registers. What have I become?! Disgusted with myself I vow to order a Boneless Banquet For One the very next day, then trudge home, the salty tears rolling into my mouth reminding me of freshly coated chicken.

Back on the wagon: As promised, I march into the local branch and order a Boneless Banquet For One with gravy and a Diet Pepsi. "What sorcery is this?" I wonder as I take my first bite, so magical are the flavours. Finally, I am reborn.

Monday, 25 April 2011

The KFC Brazer.....AKA the KC Brazer

In a move that will set hearts pumping but have a negligible effect on cholesterol levels, it is our duty to inform you of what may be one of the most epoch defining changes to KFC's menus since we don't know when.

KFB first tried a relative of the Brazer whilst in Paris doing an expose on Gallic chicken some 2 years ago. You can relive that encounter here. The Brazer then made the transition from the continent to the North East of England where it has been trialled in 17 stores, so Geordies may well be familiar with the product. A KFB sympathizer was able to smuggle an as then unnamed Brazer out of the region back in 2009 and KFB reheated it in our Midlands test kitchen. You can read about that encounter and watch the video here. Finally, most recently KFB visited Inverness to sample its latest Scottish trial before its nationwide roll-out, today, April 25th......a day that will live on in our minds forever as the day that the F was lost from KFC.

Aimed squarely at the health concious lunch time consumer this is not such a bold move, as it's been tried and tested on the continent, and undergone years of trials in the UK too. This will certainly be an addition to KFC's increasing repetoire to attract a new type of customer.

Tonight I visited Congleton branch, renowned by KFB's North West office as serving the best KFC this side of Colchester. I could immediately see the Brazer was big news, a five foot cardboard cutout was by the counter. The product boasted two menu boards, with new packaging and an alliterative strap-line inviting me to:

'Be Seduced by the Sizzle'
before the box showed me a picture of its contents and informed me that this product is

'marinated, seasoned then sizzled to perfection.'

The Brazer comes in 3 incarnations:
  • Burger
  • Twister
  • Salad

KFB opted for the burger which consists of (from the bottom up):

Ciabatta bun
Black Pepper Mayo
Marinated, Seasoned Griddled Chicken Breast
Fresh Sliced Tomato
An Additional Layer of Black Pepper Mayo
Bun Top

I had a quick look at the burger before tasting, and it was well constructed except for tomato slices. The Chicken really looked perfectly cooked, lightly browned in all the right places but not burnt and had dark lines characteristic of the griddling process with small flecks of herb across the surface of the breast. The breast itself didn't look massive but it wasn't hidden under a layer of coating so this may have been the reason.

It was with much trepidation that I thought about starting, was I betraying the Colonel's life's work? For years he strove to create the perfect recipe, travelled the entire US selling the product for mere cents to realise his dream and give something special to the world, and here today we're taking away everything that makes KFC, KFC. I took my first bite........bread, all bread. We know that as a beautiful hunk of unprocessed meat the product that KFC pedals can't be shaped as a beef patty can to fit onto a perfectly round bun so why not try baking different buns, or at least rounding the corners? This is like trying to fit a round peg into a square hole! It took me a couple of mouthfuls of bread to get to the good stuff, but yes, it was good stuff. It's always difficult for KFB to get past anything that is not a Zinger Tower, but I'll try. The Chicken was moist and tender, with fresh crisp lettuce and lashings of Black Pepper Mayo (a superior product and sadly underutilised at KFC). Where I was let down was the Tomato slices. The picture clearly shows 2, I had a measly end piece and from past experience with the Big Daddy I can say that the Tomato makes a real difference.

This is a tasty burger, but it's a delicate taste rather than a full on punch of flavour delivered by Original Recipe or Zing. Accompanied by hot chips and a fine three step gravy this can be a satisfying summer meal. What would the Colonel say......well, if he though that just one of the people who try the Brazer will go on to enjoy his delicious secret recipe, then it's probably all worth it. KFB really hopes that this becomes a stepping stone, a spring board or a gateway burger leading on those who've never enjoyed the recipe to temptation for the cornucopia of flavours that await.

Overall a pleasant experience 6/10

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Really so good?

From This:

To this!

Over 50 years of history is being quietly erased. The colonel's famous 'Finger Lickin'' slogan deemed as being 'Too food centric' is being replaced with a rather more bland affair 'So Good'.

The last time KFB checked KFC was a restaurant, a place usually centred wholly around food. But no, the famous strapline has kicked the bucket and been sent to the fryer in the sky.

This phrase, organically borne out of utter reality in the 1950s when a viewer had complained after an advertisement featured someone in the background licking his fingers. Its star, a KFC manager called Ken Harbough, responded: "Well, it's finger lickin' good." has been quietly dropped. There has been no bugle call of The Last Post, flags have not been flown at half mast (apart from at KFB HQ) but a part of KFC has died and a little bit of KFB's heart has too (no, it's not a premature coronary).

Its sad demise can be read all about here.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

New TLO: The Godfather Box Meal

Whilst KFC continues to conquer the rest of the world as Paulbot has explained, here in the UK it continues to innovate. This week saw the launch of the Godfather Box meal. Disappointingly haven't yet updated their site to reflect this and I don't have a poster picture.

The box meal follows the standard pattern, for £4.99 you get chips, drink, a side, a piece of chicken and KFC's newest creation . . . The Godfather Burger. What a name, something to rival the Daddy burger you think and with that strapline 'Deserves Respect' excitement continues to grow. You are given the box, a beautiful gloss black affair with simple wording and weighty contents and then you realise this is just a 'Spicy Italian Tower Burger'

Identical in every way to a standard tower (although, and clarification to follow on this there may be a different cheese used.) the tomato ketchup has merely been replaced by what looks like a thick cream of tomato soup with herbs. Still I always like something spicy and greedily tucked in. The sauce was smooth with a slight smoky taste with hints of Basil and most disappointingly only the merest hint of the spice promised in this burgers description (remember this in an OR fillet). It appeared that I certainly had a generous helping of sauce and so I really was expecting something a little hotter.

After a while the sauce became a little creamy and cloying not providing the perfect balance of palate cleansing fresh tomato found in the ZT's spicy salsa underbelly. The one saving grace of this was where I chose to sample it, so a special mention must go out to Congleton branch where I enjoyed it, which in over 20 visits this year has provided excellent quality fayre each and every time. Congleton tried as hard as they could, plenty of fresh lettuce an ample but overwhelming portion of Mayo, crispy hash brown, hot fresh fillet and a perfect soft bun, all of which couldn't quite salvage what could have been a great burger.

4 out of 10

KFC World Tour, Part 4: China

Yes, my good friends, China. The far east, the orient. A land of tradition, culture and over 4000 years of known history. One of the world's oldest civilisations...and to the typical western man (e.g. myself), a strange, alien place.

Arriving in Beijing, I found myself overwhelmed by very different cultural and lifestyle conventions. People everywhere, huge roads, bicycles, street sellers, flashing signs and strange sights and smells. However, one very important interest that Eastern and Western cultures share is in the fast food market. That's right, KFC is the most popular fast food chain in China. As this report goes on to explain:

In China, KFC has achieved such dominance over McDonald’s and local rivals that Colonel Harland Sanders’s image is a far more common sight in many Chinese cities than that of Mao.

As I found out for myself, this is indeed the case, and it was easy to spot the sheer number of KFC outlets by just wandering around the city. It was time to see what all the fuss was about.

For the real experience, I decided to head inland to the heart of China. The Western style shopping malls of Beijing were not a true test of Chinese KFC and so it was decided that an overnight train to Xi'an would be necessary. Arriving in Xi'an I quickly found the most popular branch near the long distance bus depot - a huge building, open 24/7 and seemingly always packed with locals tucking into delicious chicken.

Inside, I struggled to find a seat and had to share with some locals. The most popular meal of choice seemed to be the Colonel's staple fare, buckets of chicken wings, drumsticks and thighs - meat on the bone was clearly the local preference here. Overcoming the language barrier with some difficulty, I eventually managed to order a set meal, opting for what appeared to be a Zinger Meal with hot wings, coleslaw, and strange pie thing and a fruit juice drink. Strangely, none of the standard meals came with chips and it was only after some time studying the Chinese menu that they were spotted in the extras section.

The Zinger style burger and hot wings were exactly what I have come to expect, spicy and crispy with a secret recipe coating. The chicken, as I fully expected, was not up to the same juicy, plump standards of the UK, but it was good enough and provided ample sustenance. The strangest parts of the meal were the drink and small tartlet. Rather than the standard Pepsi we have come to expect, the drink was an almost tropical flavoured cordial style drink, quite refreshing and I'm sure much healthier than a carbonated alternative. The small tartlet looked to be savory on first inspection but actually turned out to be a sweet egg custard tart, a pastry commonly found in asian countries and in portuguese cuisine. Although the taste of the egg tart wasn't to my liking, it made me wonder why this kind of complete meal isn't offered in Western KFCs. I think a box meal that included some kind of small dessert or sweet pastry as a post-chicken treat could be a great idea.

It was now clear to me that the Colonel's secret recipe tastes the same anywhere in the world, even in exotic and strange locations, and the Colonel's staple fried chicken is loved the world over. The time had come to visit the opposite side of the globe, as far from the UK as I have ever been. Back into Westernised culture, but to see what innovations are being made almost 12000 Km from home. Next stop, New Zealand!

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

KFC AM: a tale of shattered dreams

Breakfast: the most important meal of the day. KFC: the most significant thing to happen to the out and about dining experience since man first developed the sandwich. You’ll have understood our joy then upon first discovering that KFC was running an ops shakedown for a breakfast menu at their flagship Marble Arch outlet. You see, KFC has been slow to innovate of late, resulting in slight variations on existing burgers, different ways to fold a wrap or at worst, the mere addition of an alternate sauce in a long established product. The promise then of a full new menu was so exciting that we naturally had to cover it here at KFB, twice.

KFC AM as it was known was an exciting and boundary-pushing way to start to the day. Eggy bread sandwiches, breakfast wrapstars, grilled(!) tomato ketchup, waffles, porridge and the pièce de résistance, chicken sausages, all featured on the first iteration of the menu. In total around 12 new menu items appeared over the course of the first year. The Colonel had found a way to make breakfasts not only different, not only to contain chicken (and no, eggs don’t count) but most importantly of all: a way to ensure they were as delicious as his long-established lunch and dinner time favourites.

So what of it I hear you ask? Why is my favourite blog referring to KFC AM in the past tense when I saw it advertised on my way to work this very morning? Well, my chicken-loving readers, KFC AM is dead to us. So far removed is the current iteration of the menu that we feel ashamed to associate it with the Colonel. All that innovation, that spark, that unique taste and yes, even that chicken has now been removed. What we are left with is the same bacon rolls, (pork!) sausage sandwiches and scrambled egg that you could find at any sub-par greasy spoon. The wrapstar? A distant memory. The breakfast box meal? Moved on to a happier place. In fact, every uniquely-named product from the original line-up bar the Platter has been removed. And that Platter - it's replaced eggy bread with toast and chicken sausages with Cumberland. Just take a look back at the original line up if you think you can bear the pain and then compare it to the shameful 'range' now available.

We understand that the British public might not have been ready, that they probably voted with their wallets and left us with this. Colonel, we salute you for trying something so unlike the rest, but what we can’t commend you for is not sticking to your guns and pushing harder, adding a little more to your marketing budget, running free trials to help people get over the chicken sausage fear.

You had a chance to be so different, Colonel, so special. But all you’ve left us with is a hole in our hearts once filled with eggy bread, Southern-style buttery breakfast buns and chicken sausages. A hole so large that even a Hot Rod box meal couldn’t fill it. Colonel, you’ve let us down.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

KFC World Tour, Part 3: Poland

Already en route to my 3rd international KFC location, there was no time to dwell on the disappointment suffered in Austria. Onwards and upwards, as they say...and upwards I travelled, north through Europe; next destination, Poland. I headed directly for the heart and soul of the country, the historic city of Krakow. One of the oldest cities in Poland, it dates back to the 7th century and is also the unofficial cultural capital, thriving with museums, art galleries, bars, clubs and many world class eateries - one of which, of course, belongs to the Colonel himself.

On a brisk Autumn lunchtime, I ventured to the most central, flagship branch located just off the main square in Krakow. Upon approaching the main entrance, I was greeted with a wonderful site - not only was the original converted brick frontage a delightful architectural sight to behold, but the Colonel Sanders living statue busker out front added to the ambiance and was a fitting tribute to the great man himself. Tossing 1 złoty into the grateful buskers collection, I entered and made straight for the counter.

Browsing the menu (which was nearly identical to that of Austria) I decided to make a very tough choice and give the "Grander" a second chance, for 2 main reasons: firstly, the "Grander" here was a slight variation called the "Texas Grander", which appeared to have thinly sliced bacon/ham in the stack, along with a Texan smoky BBQ flavour...and secondly, something about the atmosphere, neat interior and attentive counter staff told me that this could be an entirely different burger experience.

My bravery was rewarded, this was indeed a very different experience. The bun was fresh and firm, perfectly toasted. The chicken was plump, moist and tasty. The construction was neat. Admittedly, the size of the chicken breast still pales in comparison to that of the UK, and the lettuce could have been a little more fresh and plentiful, but all in all this was one tasty burger. The addition of thinly sliced cured ham, reminiscent of pancetta or prosciutto, was a wonderful and decidedly upmarket addition and makes complete sense - I would especially like to see this in place of the typically fatty bacon used in the Daddy Burger back home.

Although I had uncovered some interesting regional differences in my trek across Europe, this was nothing compared to what lay ahead. It was time to experience something totally different, something from the other side of the world, in a totally different culture and way of life. Next stop, China!

Friday, 21 January 2011

KFC World Tour, Part 2: Austria

Still on a high from my visit to Slovakia, I crossed the border into neighbouring Austria. Naturally, I made headway for the capital city of Vienna with it's beautiful Austro-Hungarian architecture, steeped in history and of course, delicious chicken joints courtesy of the Colonel.

Of Vienna's 4 branches, I headed straight to the most central and visually impressive located on Mariahilferstraße. The exterior facade combining sheet glass and wood was of stark modern contrast to the classic Baroque architecture of the rest of the city, a refreshing sight which could grab the attention of the average passer by.

Inside, I was presented with a menu not too dissimilar from that of the UK (Tower, Zinger, Twister, Boxmaster), with some similar elements seen in Slovakia (Longer) and just a couple of new, interesting items - namely the Mandarin Chicken Salad and Grander Burger. Of course, we all know that given the choice between a salad and burger, there is only one sane decision to make. I opted for the Grander Menu, and found a quiet table on the 2nd tier seating area to begin my extensive analysis.

The Grander Burger is essentially a Fillet Burger but with BBQ sauce and slice of tomato in the mix, usually only found in the Daddy Burger in the UK. With a hungry belly (and slight hang over) I tucked in excitedly, but was immediately stopped in my tracks and stricken with disappointment. Upon opening the wrapping, I was presented with a limp, dry and (oddly enough) wholemeal bun, poorly constructed with the bare minimum of lettuce and mayo and a BBQ sauce which looked more like a vinaigrette than anything else.

The proof though should always be in the eating, so I took a bite. The chicken was not the usual large, fresh, meaty breast that we are so used to in the UK, but a more puny, brown chicken. Sadly, the flavour of the BBQ sauce faired no better while the soggy bun and lopsided construction gave an unsatisfactory bite and messy hands. The lack of a clean-up tissue was the final nail in the coffin of a disappointing meal. The only positive I could take away from this experience was that the secret recipe coating did indeed taste as it should, but this is what I would have expected anyway.

I was prepared to give this branch the benefit of the doubt - maybe they were short staffed, had received a dodgy load of buns, or were training some new chicken technicians who lacked experience in the fine art of burger alignment? I hoped this was the case, and decided to forget what I had seen today and press on to my final European destination in the heart of the former Eastern Bloc - Poland!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

From the BBC website

Live chicken thrown at KFC staff in Nuneaton

A live hen was thrown through the open window of a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant in Warwickshire.

RSPCA inspectors say they want to speak to the two men who approached the restaurant in Bermuda Park, Nuneaton, on a moped on Tuesday evening.

A third man filmed the pair and the footage has since appeared on the internet.

Inspector Helen Smith, from the RSPCA, said the bird was not harmed but did suffer some distress.

She said: "It's just completely irresponsible to abandon an animal in this way."

The RSPCA is now looking for a new home for the hen, which it has named Mrs Sanders.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

KFC World Tour, Part 1: Intro and Slovakia

It's true that 2010 was a quiet year for the KFB team. Looking at the stats, we posted a meager 17 times in 2010 compared with a mighty 84 posts in 2009. "What's up with that?" I hear you ask, "Have you guys just given up on chicken, given up on life??". Well the answer, clearly, is no. Chicken IS our life, and to give up on chicken would be to give up on...LIVING. The reason for our lull in activity is that we were planning something big, something that would bring KFC from the four corners of the world straight to our loyal readers. This, my friends, was the KFC World Tour.

After months of intricate planning including detailed analysis of locations, restaurants and menus, the route was set and every last penny was saved and deposited into an offshore bank account, which was ultimately used to purchase one Round The World ticket - and I was the lucky blogger who would be sent out in search of the answers to so many questions. What is KFC like on the other side of the world? Does the secret recipe taste the same? What innovations are being made that we could learn from in the UK? ...and is UK KFC the best in the world?? It was time to answer these questions, so on August 24th 2010, I set off.

First stop would be in Europe, but where? Here at KFB we have already explored what's on offer in our neighbouring countries; previous field reports from Germany and France are still available for your perusal. So it was time to go further afield, into the beating heart of Central Europe and pay Slovakia a visit - and more precisely, the capital city of Bratislava.

On arrival at the city's most central branch, I was immediately struck by the buzz and hustle bustle of people around the entrance and seating areas. It was lunchtime, and as far as I could see KFC in Bratislava is a popular destination for hungry Slavs.

The branch was small but with a pleasant outdoor seating area, and brisk but cheery counter service. After studying the Slovakian menu for a while, it was clear that the long-standing classics were present; namely the Fillet Burger, Tower Burger, Twister, Buckets, Strips etc., but in addition to this there were some local delicacies, including the "Longer Menu" (essentially a smaller Fillet Burger in a torpedo roll), the "Fuller" bowl and a Tiramisu dessert.

I opted for the Fuller as it looked very interesting: a bowl of mashed potato, chopped Crispy Strips, sweetcorn and covered in the Colonel's finest gravy and melted mozzarella cheese, all topped with a sprinkling of herbs. Sounded delicious...and it was!

The chicken and mashed potato was a well loved combo, delightfully complemented by the gravy which was rich and creamy. The addition of sweetcorn added texture, a sweet flavour and a healthy element to the meal. The choice of an Italian melted cheese for the topping was a surprise and a rarity to see at KFC, but one that was pulled off without question of a doubt and made me wonder why other Italian and more exotic cheeses aren't used more often in the standard menu. All in all, the Fuller was a great, light meal, full of flavour and reasonably priced. My advice: Introduce this to the UK, also throw it in a box meal with a Mini Fillet burger and fries alongside and you've got a strong seller (I imagine it would make a great hang over cure too).

I left Slovakia in high spirits and with high hopes. If every KFC across the world could serve up something as innovative and delicious as what I had sampled in Bratislava, then I would be in for quite an eye opening experience. Of course, further testing would be stop, Austria!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

TLO Kickin' Sweet Chilli Box Meal

Sighted and eaten in Congleton, the Kickin' Sweet Chilli Box Meal. There is no mention of this on the website so is it an ops shakedown?

However it follows a familiar and well loved pattern. It includes a rod!

For £4.99 you get a Fillet or Zinger burger, chips a side (gravy of course) and the clincher a rod of delicious succulent chicken morsels drenched in lashings of Sweet Chilli sauce.

We were asked to wait 5 minutes for our Zingers, and right then I knew we were in for a treat and when it arrived the Zinger Tower was impeccably well built with hot juicy Zinger fillet that sent forth plumes of steam when breached with the mouth. Such was the burger that the words 'Have they always been this good' were elicited. (Not by me....I still remember Colchester 2003)

Whist this is not a massively innovative product, the Rod has been away for a while and i was reminded tonight just how damn good it is why the hot rod box cannot be a full time meal is beyond me.

This particular rod followed past form being drizzled with Sweet chilli for a refreshing almost fruity experience akin to a sweet and sour chicken.

For the sheer damn lovelyness of Rods and how good the ZT was....I'm gonna give this an 8.

In other exciting news, Sauce 2hot4U is now on sale in branch but as the photo shows worryingly...'only for a limited time.