In light of the BBC insight into KFC, “The Billion Dollar Chicken” shop, I thought it prevalent to suggest tastier joints – tastier ethical standards (i.e. there are actually some in place) and tastier food on offer.
We all knew it – whether in denial as we guiltily savour the crispy, yet flavourless chicken when inebriated at the end of a night out, or we consciously boycott the poultry magnate – KFC does not treat its chickens, nor staff, well. We’ve all heard the horror stories, and did not need to watch the documentary in order to deduce what goes on behind the scenes.
More worrying than the low wages and long hours are the farming methods: no natural light, up to 35,000 chickens squashed together in one shed. They’ve barely any room for movement and essentially live in their own waste. The images of balding chickens are reminiscent of the London pigeons with gnarled feet, missing toes, visible vertebrae.
Not the plump free range birds you’d like to imagine, scurrying around, like those on Hugh Fearnly Whittingstall’s farm.
To me, this treatment doesn’t outweigh the impressively (or frighteningly) low prices in KFC. You can upgrade a meal with two extra wings for a mere 99p. How about upgrading your meal and conscience a hell of a great deal more by trying out the following places, all of which serve free-range chicken:
Meal for one – £15-£20
You’ll be greeted with a plain and simple menu. There are a few burgers, but go for the meat, straight up, with a couple of sides. There are a selection of glazes and sauces to try too (check that shine on the above photo), to personalise and enhance your bird. I opted for a whole chicken (for two), immersed in extra hot chilli sauce, though this was a tough decision as the buffalo and honey ginger sauces also tempted me. The skin was super crispy and light, without that flabby fat underneath you get in KFC. For those fussy eaters or those that get confused by bones, you can pick brown or white meat if you so desire. The portion sizes were excellent unlike KFC’s, where you receive a tiny bony bit of thing and it’s gone in a flash. I gleefully skipped home with a few leftover pieces in a doggy bag.
Spit and Roast, KERB
Meal for one – £6-£10
KERB is a market with selected food stalls and traders that moves around London. Frequently seen at King’s Cross, Canary Wharf, Southbank, Paddington and Spitalfields, it can always be found somewhere relatively Central. The traders are regulars but change from day-to-day on rotation. My favourite has to be Spit and Roast – responsible for the best chicken burger I have ever eaten. If your tongue has not discovered buttermilk marinated chicken, please allow it to do so ASAP. It’s fusion American style cooked, with a delightfully tangy Korean hot sauce. Just as Bird, the chicken is free range, and man does it taste free range.
Mother Clucker, Brick Lane
Meal for one – £6-£10
Also appearing at KERB is the clucking good Mother Clucker, who are permanently based at the Truman Brewery on Brick Lane and in the kitchen of the Cat and Mutton pub in London Fields . This one is more about spiced chicken, and boasts a process of tea-brining, buttermilk-soaking, and double frying; the latter technique creates the most incredibly crunchy, crispy chicken skin. The chicken strips can be partnered with Cajun spiced chips, and the chicken is topped with fresh chillies and spring onions for an extra bit of kick.
Both KERB stalls are currently at West India Quay near Canary Wharf; go get.
Flesh and Buns, Covent Garden
A little pricey, but opt for the Express Menu for 2 courses and a drink – £19
Confirming the bond between fried chicken and Korean-style sauce, opt for the fried wings. This starter was ample – enough for two with generously sized wings, crispy in texture, yet drenched in sumptuous sour, sesame sauce. Needless to say I lapped up the remaining drippings in a less-than-elegant fashion, much to the dismay of my companion. I urge you to go to this instalment in the Bone Daddies chain, despite the wings only being a starter!
I hope this provides some inspiration to go out and discover delicious alternatives to the bland KFC fare. Chicken in general has a bad rep for being the dull meat you’d have at home, but wouldn’t go for when dining out. I guarantee the aforementioned sauces and fine textures bring this humble bird alive, cooked with the reverence and thoughtfulness the meat deserves.