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.