BY PALOMA LACY
Fried chicken – is it the scourge of the British inner city high street or the thing of wonder?
The rate at which shops are opening up tells us that its popularity among the masses holds no bounds.
As I walked down my local high street just last week, and questioned the need for yet another chicken shop, customers bobbed in and out, proving the appetite for quick, cheap meals remains veracious.
But these mass producing examples bear no resemblance to the relatively new wave of high quality fried chicken emporiums that offer the customer a premium experience, with high welfare meat at the heart of their offering.
Well-cooked and to these standards, as an occasional treat, you can’t beat it.
You’ll pay over the odds, if you start comparing with the cheaper end of the market, but comparisons should stop right there as these are two entirely different products.
I found myself lucky enough to be in receipt of tickets to see Hugh Jackman’s one-man-show a few weeks ago at the O2 (who incidentally treated us to a rip-roaringly good romp through his back catalogue of career highlights of song and dance).
We arrived two hours before the show started for a leisurely dinner, but we quickly realised that queuing to get through security, a loo break (20 minute queue) and time for a quick drink would mean a pit-stop dinner was more realistic.
Queues were starting to build at many of the major high street chains, so my friend and I headed down to Thunderbird Chicken, situated at the farthest reaches of the ‘food village’.
The brand’s back story involves its owner Matt travelling through the US and, while there, developing a deep love of fried chicken and all things barbeque.
That was some 10 years ago, a time in which the good quality stuff wasn’t readily available in the UK. One food truck later, Thunderbird Fried Chicken was born in 2017 and now has five stores across London.
Time to talk food. The experience was wonderful on the chicken and wing front, but the fried were not so good. As promised, the award- winning wings were on point. Not a natural wing lover, a crunchy outer casing and juicy inner gets me every time. Wings come in lots of five, 10, 15 and 20, starting at a fiver for five, up to £17 for 20 pieces.
I’d never seen salted caramel wings before and wow – what an experience. Every single one of the flavours sung out – smoked salt, orange, toasted sesame and chilli flakes combined to create the most explosively good coatings I’ve ever had.
Serious thumbs up. We skipped bbq, chipuffalo (a combo of chipotle and buffalo sauces) and Habanero – all for next time.
The menu is simple – four kinds of chicken burger or pieces, all of which are boneless, even better. Mess of handling bones is what puts a lot of people off.
I went for Thunderbun (£7), the most basic burger on offer – chicken, a little Awsome Sauce (mayonnaise, of sorts), lettuce and pickles. In my opinion, that’s more than enough going on in a bun.
This is how fried chicken should be – seasoned to perfection and fried until the edges are crispy and the meat inside remains succulent.
There is a tendency to go bigger and better when presenting American food, and I don’t think the British palate is particularly desiring of it.
On this basis, the other burgers with additional fillings and sauces were not for me. And so on to the fries, which I wished had been left alone – the fried and salted potato chip is quite beautiful enough on its own, without the adornment of Cajun spice and more Awesome Sauce.
I prefer sauces, dip, garnishes and whatever the kitchen feels the need to throw on top, left on the side, enabling a quick dip now and again, but hey, that’s just me.
Paloma was a guest of Thunderbird Chicken, The O2, Peninsula Square, SE10 0DX.