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!