Tuesday, 15 December 2015

KFB in Australia - Zinger Tower Stacker review

It’s all about the hash brown. No, really. Somehow this unassuming potato-based delight has the power to elevate a burger that’s already a solid 8/10 into the heady realms of 9s and 10s. 

Regular followers of this blog will know just how much we love the UK’s Tower Burgers. To our minds, the perfect combination of taste, size and value. So you can probably imagine our deep sadness upon realising that Towers weren’t an option over in Australia. In fact, and to add insult to injury, they were removed from the menu shortly before our arrival down under. Thankfully though, the Colonel has seen sense and has recently brought Towers back. This ain't no ordinary Tower though - eagle-eyed readers will know that the Stacker monicker refers to the presence of TWO chicken fillets. Yes, you read that right: TWO.

The Zinger Tower Stacker did not disappoint. In fact, it was one of the finest KFC offerings we've ever had the pleasure of sampling. The overly-sweet tomatoey sauce from the regular Stacker has been replaced here with something more savoury and far less overpowering. The chicken was juicy and tender. The hash brown was truly wonderful. If we're nitpicking, there was a construction issue that we had to address: you'll notice in the above photo that the hash brown was placed at the top of the assembly rather than between the two fillets. This was quickly addressed with our nimble fingers:

Taste: 10
Value: 8
Innovation: 5

Overall: 9

To make sure we weren't being overly swayed by the hash brown's ability to transport us back to the familiar KFCs of London, we recruited two Aussie reviewers who had the following to say:

Dave 'Gainz' G:
Cluck cluck cluck- That’s the sound of one happy chicken. A tender, juicy fillet combined with fresh, crisp lettuce, a zingy mouth-watering sauce and not to forget the addition of the humble potato made for one pretty delightful combination. I was blown away by the flavours unravelling in my mouth. Its safe to say that this was a meal fit for a king. I don’t think I’ve ever actually left a dining venue with a smile as big as the one I had spread across my face… In  fact- I’m still shaking my head, grinning at the thought of the entire experience. KFC- I’ll see you soon. You nailed it!!! 5/5

D 'Mafioso' Libs:
The combination of zinger patty and hash brown is an eclectic mix of flavours that combine to satisfy any chicken aficionado 4.5/5

Friday, 23 October 2015

KFC BBQ Boss Meal Review

I have to admit I was a bit trepidatious about today's expeditition to try the latest Time Limited Offer (TLO), the BBQ Bacon Boss Box Meal to give it its official title.

The reason for my sense of foreboding? I had opted to try what one commenter has called 'Worst KFC in the UK' accompanied by a slew of similar comments around 3 years ago. However a later comment posted a year ago paints the place in a better light, but it was time for KFB to check it out.
Why had I chosen this particular branch? Knowing that this TLO contains bacon, I knew a couple of my more regular haunts are halal branches which don't sell the bacon. I presumed, correctly as it turned out, that a small market town in the middle of a national park would not have the ethnic diversity to warrant a halal conversion.

After a number of fairly innovative recent TLO's the product design teams seem to be taking a break and have thrown together this burger from existing ingredients pretty quickly before adding an alliterative moniker to capture the attention:

When ordering I stuck with the Original Recipe (OR) fillet so I could enjoy this burger as Colonel intended. I opted for a side of gravy too and was delighted when the branch supervisor agreed to substitute my piece of chicken on the bone for a mini fillet ( although she said she wasn't supposed to, when I whipped out my Colonels Club card with it's swollen points total, I think she knew she was rewarding a real fan).

Following the comments I wasn't expecting much but was presented with a well constructed burger, just a couple of minor gripes, the hash brown was a little too brown and the bun had hardly seen the toaster, so was rather cool. The fries too looked a little overcooked but in fact were very nice and the gravy was an incredible three step that passed the standing chip test:
The Burger itself was exactly what you'd expect although I have to say it was well balanced with each of the key ancilliary ingredients (Cheese / Bacon / BBQ) coming through nicely. I just had one bite where the the BBQ was a little overpowering. The OR, so often overlooked by KFB in favour of Zinger was also very tasty although given I was tucking into this at about 13:20 not as fresh as it could have been.

The Buxton branch I have to say exceeded my expectations, It was clean with good service and helpful friendly staff.

Although there's a lack of innovation here, this is a solid contender hot on the heels of some good TLO's therefore earns itself a solid 6.5 out of ten.

Tuesday, 6 October 2015

KFC's of Europe - KFC Belarus

When researching my trip to Belarus; a country popularly labelled as Europe's last dictatorship; I was unable to determine whether or not there was a KFC here. A google search turns up little but a number of articles expressing the opinion that a KFC will be opened sometime in 2015. The other results are in cyrillic script and as this in not a strong suite of mine we were going in blind.

In the late September sun, having strolled round most of the capital's main thoroughfares and having seen no evidence of one existing I was suddenly bouyed by a glorious sight:

However this led to a further problem. Belarus is not blessed with many gifted English speakers so we were on our own. Apart from the delicious looking burger, featuring - look closely - a base of gherkin slices; the thing that excited me most about this billboard was the clue to this branches whereabouts in the bottom right corner.

Having spent a few days in the city I had learned to discern signs for the city's metro system and could even navigate it. I followed the billboard's instructions and travelled to the very end of the line.

And ended up at this very busy intersection with no KFC in sight:

I looked around in earnest I asked passers by who gave me blank looks and finally (due in part to a less dedicated travelling companion - Not a member of the blog writing team) I conceded defeat and went back to my hotel defeated.

Since my return I have researched again and there appears to be a fully fledged website and evidence that the branch is exactly where I was. I could see no evidence of either any building under construction or an open restaurant.... I am hoping that the cyrillic text in the billboard said 'Coming Soon' but know this Colonel... I tried

If anybody who reads the blog goes to this branch we'd love to know more.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

KFC's of Europe - KFC Poland

My First KFC in Poland was pre KFB, back in 2005. I have dim but happy memories, and remember a fellow traveller remarking with a note of jealous wonder in her voice, after I consumed my burger with a certain veracity that she'd 'never seen anybody eat chicken like that'. Regardless of the intent I wore the comment as a badge of honour.

The branch itself is located near the Warsaw Central Sstation, and, unusually given the different parent companies shares premisis with a burger king, their kitchens merely seperated by a glass panel and the restaurant seating available to patrons of either brand.

Due to some unfortunate timing, we were forced to have KFC for breakfast and I was very happy to see the branch open and serving a full menu at 09:30am.

The menu had a lot of traditional favouries, Wraps, Boxmasters, Zingers and towers as well as a couple of innovative chinese inspired menu items not too disimmilar from our own current UK Time Limited offer (TLO) ricebox.
Due to hangover and a desire to get the measure of the branch in terms of the quality of their bread and butter items I opted for something a little more familiar, taking a fairly standard wrap whilst my travelling companion sampled the Boxmaster (here called the Mega Pocket). Both were made using good quality ingredients throughout:

I have to say that the qualty of the branch was all to a high standard, as was the food and weighing in at around 16 Zlotych for a standard meal this came in at around half the price of it's UK counterpart for comprable quality.

Not content with scoring highly on all of the above and great early opening to boot, the Polish KFC had one more excellent boast - Beer as a drink option. I see a bright future for KFC in Poland

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

KFC Ricebox Review

Here at KFB we've been critical in the past of KFC's failure to genuinely innovate. For a long while it seemed that each new Time Limited Offer (TLO) was essentially a chicken burger with a different sauce.

However when they go ahead and innovate and introduced last period's Burrito we stayed silent, but to try and correct that course I present a review of their latest TLO - The Ricebox:

Promising Steamed Tex Mex rice, Bean Salsa, Fresh Lettuce and Zinger chicken, this represents a real departure from the norm where KFC have consistently opted for a bread based carbohydrate component. Although the recent Burrito contains rice, that meal also came with Fries and I wondered upon seeing the first street ads for this whether the tradition meal format would survive.

It hasn't, for £4.99 you get a Ricebox (O.R. or Zinger) and a drink. An optional regular side is priced with a 50% discount at 50p.

I tried this at one of my favoure branches, Goldenhill in Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent during the evening rush at about 18:15. Service wasn't too quick and my server apologised upon handing me my bag. Whether as a concilliatory gesture for the perceived delay or poor training I shall never know but I opened my nicely weighty bag to see a portion of fries sat atop my ricebox.

First look:
The plain brown minimalistic packaging gave it quite a refined look that didn't scream 'fast food'.

Disappointingly the cellophane window designed I'm sure to tantilise the expectant diner with a first glimpse of the feast that awaits them was smeared with an unidentified sauce (believed to be ranch) rather ruining the experience, but offset by the knowledge that my box was full to bursting.

Having finlly figured out how to open the box I was greeted with:

a mess!

My bag hadn't contained the sturdy looking wooden fork displayed on the marketing images so I opted for a company plastic spork which barely survived its travails.

The salad I expected to be cold as well as the salsa, the Chicken I expected to be hot, the rice I didn't and still don't know. It was either cold to start with and had picked up a bit of heat from the Chicken breast or had been served only lukewarm.

However I dived in, and overall enjoyed a pleasent experience. The salad and bean salsa (primarily kidney beans) provided a range of flavours and textures that kept the whole thing fresh and it was moist throughout. There was no surfeit of rice but neiher was it a stingy portion.

Overall this would make a great lunch, perhaps not big enough for my evening meal but a great addition to the current fast food ensemble which stands out as a unique offering amongs the big 3.

I felt the price point was a little high and breaks with the traditional 3 item meal. (perhaps the addition of a small dessert would make £5 seem a good deal). Another minor gripe was the cutting of the chicken which had not gone clean through and was quite difficult to manage with only aforementioned spork.

Whilst not to my personal taste this is a good crack of the whip which  deservs a 7.5 out of 10

Sunday, 30 August 2015

KFB Mini Review: Smith's KFC Zinger crisps

There I was, aimlessly traversing the aisles of my local Coles supermarket on a quest for OJ, oblivious to all around me. But what was this?! Out of the corner of my well-trained eye, I caught what looked to be a glimpse of the Colonel's famous visage. Could it be? Was that really his smiling red and white face on...a packet of crisps!? Though we've seen KFC-crisp crossovers in the past in certain parts of Asia, this is the first time such a collaboration has been attempted in Australia. And what a collaboration it is.

The crisps themselves are super crunchy and believe it or not do actually have a taste that's reminiscent of a Zinger fillet. Are they a replacement? Heck no. But if you have an acute Colonel craving and just can't bear the thought of venturing out to your nearest KFC outlet, keeping a pack or two of these handy should help to allay those deep-seated yearnings.

Oh and one other important thing to note - as far as we can tell there's no actual chicken in these crisps. Meaning that for quite possibly the first time, vegetarians can experience the delicious, otherwise forbidden taste that approximates Original Recipe coating.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

KFB interviews a former KFC employee

A few weeks ago while indulging in post-work beers near KFB headquarters it came to light that one of our drinking accomplices had previously worked at none other than KFC. Naturally we had to pick the brains of this young man to learn more. We've protected the ex-employee's face in the only way we know how: with chicken.

Hello! Thanks so much for sharing your tales direct from the Colonel's kitchen. 

How long did you work for KFC? Which city were you based in? What was your highest position?

I worked at a relatively central and busy KFC location in Perth, Western Australia. I was trained as a kitchen hand originally, but I learned front counter and burger prep as well. I worked there for about a year and a half. For a while they were trying to entice me to become a manager but that process was taking too long so I left for greener pastures.

Sounds like a foolish decision to us! OK, what’s your favourite menu item and why? 

I really enjoy any menu item that isn’t frozen chicken. Even though popcorn chicken is delicious, nothing beats the OG chicken pieces- Hot n Spicy or Original Recipe.

I really don’t like eating the potato from KFC because that stuff is instant potato, which has a rubbish mouth feel.

The mashed potato has divided us here at KFB too. Is there anything you can tell us about KFC that most of our readers won’t know?

The gravy is made, in part, with a by-product of the Original Recipe frying process. I forget what in-house term for the ‘stock’ is, but it comes from the bottom of the frier (crackling - Ed). Most people are terrified at the prospect of eating old bits of fried breading that have been sitting at the bottom of the high pressure fryers, but it’s no different from eating traditional stock.

Also, KFC in Australia have a kind of audit/olympics yearly event where store staff compete with other store staff to get standardised food orders out of the door in a certain time and at a certain quality.

Did you ever ‘Frankenstein’ together different ingredients to make bespoke products? If so, what was your favourite creation?

Menu hacks are non cannon and no true fast food fan pays them any mind.

A respectable point of view though not one we totally abide by ourselves. Do you have any funny stories about your time working in restaurants or particularly weird customer incidents?

Not really. I worked at a pretty busy store, so you got all kinds- from smelly homeless guys, to traveling americans who got pissed off that we didn’t carry 'biscuits'. I remember when I applied that I said I enjoyed cooking because I thought it would get me over the line (I was fresh out of high school so the only thing I knew how to cook was cheese on toast). As it turns out, the fast food industry is pretty regimented in practice, so cooking was definitely not a skill I needed for this position.

You wouldn’t believe the demand for stolen Original Recipe spices.

Actually I think we would! Did you enjoy your time working for the Colonel and do you still eat his chicken?

I had a great time and I definitely still eat the chicken.

That's what we like to hear. And finally, how often do you still wear your KFC caps and t-shirts?

It’s impossible to get the smell of chicken and flour out of a uniform, so they went straight in the bin. Sorry.

The smell of chicken sounds amazing, the smell of flour...not so much. Thank you for your time and we hope that you one day find your way back into the Colonel's warm embrace / kitchen.

No worries. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

KFB in Australia - Boneless Hot & Spicy Box review

To bone or not to bone? That is the question posed by every man, woman and child upon first casting their eyes over the Colonel's menu boards. It's a highly controversial subject even here at KFB headquarters. For some, chicken on the bone represents the OG - the truest expression of that special flavour. After all, it led to the 'Finger-lickin' good' slogan back in the day. For other, bones simply get in the way and take up unneccessary extra space and weight. To my mind, there's a time and a place for either option and last Friday, that time and place led me to go boneless and try KFC's new Boneless Hot & Spicy box here in Melbourne.

It's at this point that I should point out that I was severely hungover at the time of sampling the box of delight. As we've previously covered on KFB though, there's nothing finer than KFC when it comes to curing all but the most extreme of hangovers. It was game on.

Now I know what you're thinking - what right does a bread roll have to be in the mix when it's not part of a burger? We'll get back to that later. For now let's focus on the chicken: 3 sizeable chunks that were reasonably well-coated in ETC (extra tasty cripsy) rather than Original Recipe.

It was time to delve in. We've said it before and we'll say it again: thigh meat just isn't as well-suited to being used in a boneless dish such as this or a burger. While it was relatively fat and certainly sinew-free and even though it was clearly well-marinaded, it just didn't have that firm, bouncy texture we love from a good hunk of breast. Something to note: according to KFC's site, the boneless pieces could be either thigh or breast - my colleagues and I however were all served the former.

So let's get back to the bun. I was reliably informed by an Aussie chum of mine that the bun was to be filled with all the other boxed ingredients, thereby turning it into some kind of elaborate sandwich. This of course had to be tried.

The result? It was delicious. Though the bun itself was overly sweet, it complemented the saltiness of the fries and chicken well. The mash and gravy, though still not anywhere near as good as a pot of UK 3-step gravy, added some interesting extra flavour.

So what was missing you might ask? More chicken of course! The UK's Boneless Banquet For One not only features mini breast fillets coated in Original Recipe but also adds a small tub of Popcorn Chicken to the mix. Close then, KFC Australia, but not quite what we'd hoped for.

Oh, the hangover? Yup, pretty much cured post-chicken. The Colonel strikes again.

Taste: 7
Value: 6.5 ($10.95 for the meal or about £5.50)
Innovation: 3

Overall: 6/10

Monday, 26 January 2015

The Double Down Dog launches in the Philippines

Today the internet has quite rightly dropped to its knees in order to worship a revolutionary new KFC product: the Double Down Dog. We thought the Double Down was something unique, something incredible. Then along came the Hash Brown Double, proving that you can indeed improve on perfection. And of course we can't forget Korea's Zinger Double Down King which adds a beef burger into the mix.

Well now the Colonel's only gone and added a sausage into the mix. Devastatingly, this delectable creation is apparently limited to a mere 50 per store and only available over the next couple of days. KFC Philippines is no stranger to innovative new products that haven't seen the light of day elsewhere but we can only hope that the PR it's generated will convince Harland to bring it to the rest of the world. 

So many questions remain about the Double Down Dog - what is the sauce on top? Just how do they bend the chicken to fit so neatly around the pork? Will they release a special edition with added bacon? Until we're able to sample one, the closest we can come is this photo of what might possibly be the world's most delicious snack spotted in the wild:

Wednesday, 7 January 2015

KFC in Australia - Zinger Pie review

Upon first moving to a new country lots of small details strike you as unusual - these are mostly insignificant to the locals to the extent that they'll express surprise if you point them out. In the case of Australia, it was things like the clicking traffic lights, washing machines that play tunes when they finish a cycle and the obsession with banana bread and pies. Now don't get me wrong, us Brits bloody love a good pie. But you'd normally only find them in fish and chip shops, the odd pub and 'British' restaurants. Over in Oz, you'll
encounter them in every convenience store, you'll see rows and rows in the freezer aisles dedicated to them or even whole chains of shops (PieFace being the best known) dedicated to this humble snack. The thing is, most of them are pretty poor thanks to sludgy, measly fillings and soggy pastry.

Step up the Zinger Pie: the first of its kind we'd encountered on our global travels and making its second appearance in Australia after a limited edition run this time last year. First impressions were good - the pie was a deep golden brown colour and nice and flaky on top.

The initial bite was more rewarding than we'd anticipated thanks to a surprisingly decent amount of chicken and gravy which was packed full of flavour. In fact there was so much filling that our hands soon became covered in it (not that we're complaining) - finger licking good indeed.

The chicken itself reminded us of the pre-marinaded breast pieces you'd find in supermarkets except of course for the fact that this was a marinade like no other - a Zinger marinade. And very tasty it was too.

At $3.95 (about £2.10) the pie itself represented great value for money. To ensure a full review however we felt it necessary to 'box it up' and add an OR chicken piece, fries, a drink and mash/gravy bringing the total up to something more like $11. Unfortunately we found the mash very bland and the gravy a big disappointment but we're here today to talk pies, not potato. Speaking of potato though, there's also a Kentucky Pie on offer which includes aforementioned mash and gravy within the pie itself. As lifelong Zinger devotees though it just didn't appeal.

Taste: 6.5
Value: 8
Innovation: 9

Overall: 7.5