Fried chicken is something that has been available on every high street in London since forever, but only in the kind of places frequented by greasy-fingered school children and drunks. Now, restaurants are using better quality birds, which are carefully cooked and served with creative sauces and sides. Here's a round-up of our favourites.
The Nashville hot chicken at Stagolee's
Londonist writer Lydia Manch recommends this Fulham soulfood joint:
Everything bar the fries is made — baked, brined, battered — from scratch in the downstairs kitchen, and that amount of TLC pays off in a big way. All the Southern Americana classics are there; collard greens with ham hock, spinach dip thick with cheese, cornbread, fried catfish... and what might be the best hot chicken you'll find this side of Nashville: it's definitely the best we've ever had in London.
The standard hot chicken comes as enormous portions - all crunch, no grease. The Tom Devil hot chicken is a slightly stickier, far hotter version that owner Jordan Harris reckons a third of people genuinely enjoy, a third manage it just to look tough and a third just can't choke down. One of their strong, cooling Southern Hospitality cocktails or moonshine margaritas is a perfect pairing for the standard chicken. For the Tom Devil, it's practically a medical requirement.
The whole fry at Chick ‘n Sours
Chick ‘n Sours have introduced a whole bird fry to their menu. We’ve long loved this east London restaurant because frankly, everything on their menu is excellent, from the stunning Sichuan aubergine, to the watermelon salad, the wings and their incredible sandwiches. This new fry is a great alternative to the traditional Sunday lunch, and we ate it Korean style, with gochujang mayo. It stays really moist, having been brined first, and the outside is super crisp due to the fact that it's fried for 12 minutes, rested for 10, then cooked for another 7 to finish. Have one (or several) of their excellent sours alongside.
Chick ‘n Sours, 390 Kingsland Road, E8 4AA (with another branch in Seven Dials).
Buffalo wings at Sticky Wings
These guys moved from an out of the way spot in Lewisham to prime turf in Brick Lane where they serve baskets of near perfect buffalo wings. Bubbly skin is coated in a mixture of Frank’s Hot Sauce and butter, just as it should be. With blue cheese dip on the side, these are textbook buffalo. Accept no imitations.
Sticky Wings, 40 Brick Lane, E1 6RF
The Thai thighs at Chicken Liquor
You could probably throw a chicken bone from the doorway of Mama Lan’s and hit Chicken Liquor, they’re that close in Brixton Market. The Thai thighs at CL are fried, then tossed with a tamarind dressing, fresh mint leaves, dinky rings of shallot and fresh chilli. They’re hot, sour, salty and incredibly addictive. We find ourselves thinking about them at inappropriate moments; when staring into a bowl of breakfast muesli, for example.
Chicken Liquor, Unit 12, Market Row, SW9 8PR
The wings at Mama Lan's
We’re huge fans of the crunchy coating on the wings at Mama Lan’s in Brixton. The wings have a highly spiced exterior, the scent of which wafts around as they approach the table, meaning we always cave too soon and burn our mouths. There’s star anise, coriander seed, garlic and sesame in there, but their killer finish comes in the form of their house made chilli oil, which they pour on top. It’s a sweet ‘n spicy dream. Go on, put a wing on it.
The chicken karaage and katsu at Tonkotsu
We tried to decide between the two spectacular fried chicken sandwiches at Tonkotsu but couldn’t. This is chicken fried Japanese style. The karaage sandwich is thigh meat which has been marinated in soy, ginger and garlic and then fried in super craggy batter. It’s nestled into a sesame seeded bun with cos lettuce and Kewpie mayo (sweetened Japanese mayo). We like to add a dribble of their Eat The Bits chilli oil which is simply fantastic and also, FYI, available to buy and take home.
The katsu sandwich is a London classic, and is a choice of breast or thigh meat (get the latter), breaded and fried, then sandwiched with katsu curry sauce, very finely shredded cabbage for crunch and a slick of mayo. The bread is soft and white, the curry sauce is sweet and mild and it’s got old school comfort food stamped all over it.
Tonkotsu, see website for locations.
The Buttermilk Fried Chicken at Spit and Roast
Spit and Roast make buttermilk fried chicken which they sell from a street food van. They brine the birds overnight in buttermilk then dredge them in a secret coating and deep fry. Served in a sandwich with just a little too much of their Korean hot sauce and a crunchy slaw, these are some of the best buns in London.
Spit and Roast, see website for locations.
The Keralan Fried Chicken at Kricket
Not been to Kricket yet? Shame on you. These guys are making some really exciting South Indian inspired food and selling it in a shipping container in Brixton's Box Park. The fried chicken is a must-order - strips of bird succulent inside the craggiest of batters. A garnish of fried curry leaves sparkle like jewels. Once you've finished the chicken, it's time to move onto the rest of the menu - we gave it a four-star review in 2015.
Kricket, POP Brixton, 49 Brixton Station Road, SW9 8PQ
The Lockhart, for fried chicken Southern USA style, served with collard greens and coleslaw.
Mother Clucker, for southern fried strips served from a converted US army ambulance.
The Orange Buffalo, for a range of hot sauces, which range from mild to hold-your-face hot.