Tuesday, 2 April 2013

London's trendy chicken offerings vs. The Colonel: an epic battle

First burritos, then burgers, now...fried chicken. Yes folks, fried chicken is indeed the latest craze in trend-loving London town. Over the past 6 months we've watched with interest as a number of fowl establishments have popped up in various guises across our capital. 

Here at KFB we felt it was important that we tried as many of these offerings as possible in order to answer for our readers the ultimate question: can anyone do fried chicken as well as the Colonel? Here's how we judged - each venue is scored against 2 simple criteria: taste and value. All orders were compared to the equivalent offering at KFC - chicken burgers vs. Fillet Tower burger, classic fried chicken vs. Original Recipe chicken pieces and so on. Here's how they stacked up.

Rita's, Dalston

While they serve a variety of different American style dishes we were only here for one thing: the much lauded fried chicken sandwich. Famous food critic Jay Rayner had this to say about it:

“Rita’s Bar and Dining in Dalston is a serious piece of work. This will probably be the best fried chicken you’ve ever had.”

Bold claims indeed, Mr Rayner and not entirely unfounded. The chicken was indeed very tasty and incredibly crunchy, even giving Extra Tasty Crispy treats from the Colonel a run for their money. Ultimately though at £6.50 a pop it just can't hope to stack up to it's larger, more cheese and hash brown laden brethren - the Fillet Tower.

Taste: 4/5

Value: 3/5

Does it beat the Colonel? No

Big thanks to WhatJoannaAte for the pic.

Spit & Roast, food stall

We encountered these folks at a street food market in Dalston (we don't hang out there every day, honest). They were serving a buttermilk fried chicken burger with Korean sauce. Given that we had a slider, the closest comparison would be a Mini Fillet. And while the sauce was very interesting (and quite spicy), the mini burger cost about £3 (nearly triple the cost of the Mini FIllet). Still, a tastily different take on fried chicken.

Taste: 3.5/5

Value: 2.5/5

Does it beat the Colonel? No

Roost, Soho pop up
Operating out of a Soho pub's kitchen for a couple of months, Roost offered a wide range of chicken-based dishes. Clearly though it was the fried chicken that we had to sample. We opted for an off-menu buttermilk fried chicken burger with chorizo and aioli. While delicious and the coating very crispy, the combination of the two accompanying strong flavours was perhaps a bit much. We would however like to see the Colonel experiment with chorizo as an alternative to the usual bacon.

Taste: 3.5/5

Value: 3/5

Does it beat the Colonel? No

Wishbone, Brixton

If you follow the UK fast food scene you'll have no doubt heard of MeatLiquor - the restaurant (and travelling van before it) that could well be credited with kick-starting London's renewed interest in pimped-up fast food. Imagine our excitement then when we heard that some of the people involved were opening a chicken only shop in South London's Brixton village market. Then imagine our disappointment when we arrived only to find extremely cramped 'tables' (shelves sticking out of the walls) and sub par fries that tasted as if they'd come straight out of a freezer via an ALDI. The chicken didn't fare much better - we sampled the Thai and Buffalo thigh nuggets, both of which came in very vinegary sauces that went soggy all too quickly. Colour us disappointed.

Taste: 2/5

Value: 3/5

Does it beat the Colonel? No

Mother Clucker Soho pop up

In similar vein to Roost, these chaps are currently appearing at a Soho pub (the Endurance on Berwick St). The menu is a fairly sparse affair - we opted for the combo that included a buttermilk biscuit, some 'Cluster Clucks' which were similar to popcorn chicken, a drumstick and some waffle fries. As intriguing as they sound, waffle fries essentially equate to crisps and weren't particularly interesting. Better was the chicken - the popcorn style bites were the real winners - tasty and crunchy in equal measure. At £7.50 it did offer good value - though with a box meal at the Colonel offering a similar quantity of food at £2 or so less, they were never going to win out on the money front. Oh and the biggest disappointment - the lack of gravy. As all chicken fans know, a tub of lubricant to help the fowl slide down is essential.

Taste: 3.5/5

Value: 3.5/5

Does it beat the Colonel? No

Lucky Fried Chicken, Kentish Town pop up

Pop up. Pub. You may have spotted a bit of a theme here. The chaps who have in this blogger's opinion crafted London's best burger (check out http://www.luckychipuk.com/) were doing a residency above a pub in North London that has now sadly come to an end. First to draw our attention was the familiar effigy and tagline in use. Sacrilegious on the one hand, inspired on the other - we'll let you decide.

Between 4 of us we opted for 2 Jumbo boxes and a couple of fries and coleslaws for good measure. As it turns out this was a bountiful bevy of food. And oh what food it was. First off we sampled the coating. Though not hugely crunchy it was bursting with flavour. We're not sure what herbs and spices they were using (and certainly not the same as in Original Recipe) but damn, that was some serious taste. Then onto the chicken itself - we can safely say we've never before sampled chicken as juicy as this. In fact, we'd struggle to think of any kind of meat we've ever sampled anywhere that was this juicy. Much like the Colonel, though the sides were tasty, the chicken was absolutely the star of the show. And between the four of us, the meal came in well under £10 each, not including beer.

Is it wrong to say that we've found chicken better than that at KFC? Quite possibly. Is it true? 3 of our team sampled the chicken and in our expert opinions, we'd have to say yes. Now remember that this was a tiny pop up above a pub, not a huge international chain. And that it did indeed cost more than the equivalent at KFC. But we've got to hand it to them, the folks at LFC certainly know what they're doing. Colonel - we hope you're watching.

Taste: 5/5

Value: 4.5/5

Does it beat the Colonel? Yes, yes it does.