What's The Vegan Fried Chicken Shop Actually Like?
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As some people have had to learn the hard way, chicken isn't vegan. Lucky then, that Temple of Hackney is on hand for London's vegans, opening a permanent vegan chicken shop. We sent a vegetarian who gave up meat two years ago down on the opening day to find out whether it lived up to the hype.
The first thing to note were the massive queues. Despite the freezing January cold, these hardcore vegans were obviously desperate for their fried chicken (or fried seitan — a vegetarian meat alternative). It was a clever move, launching in January; with the nation gripped in the throngs of veganuary, the vegan customer base is at its peak. As we queued, bemused locals were trying to figure out what the fuss was about. One even recommended we pop into the butchers next door, joking that they were meat free too.
After about 40 minutes of shivering, we finally got inside to find the place claustrophobically rammed. Once we'd ordered, we waited for our food eyeing up lunches belonging to those who had already been served.
"Fast food" is a term pretty central to real fried chicken, but here the reality is more "leisurely paced food" — or at least it was on opening day. It remains to be seen whether the madness continues once it's been open for a while. Finally our food arrives and we head to one of the few tables outside to dig in.
We tried some chicken shop staples: two pieces of 'chicken' with chips, a 'chicken' burger, coleslaw and cans of (fairtrade) fizzy drink. The first thing to note is that this place isn't cheap. A main with chips or slaw totals £8, and it's an extra £1.50 on top for a drink. Vegans often have to deal with steeper prices for their lifestyle and it's not much different here.
Once you've recovered from the prices, we come to the actual, erm, meat of this review. The two pieces were pretty tasty. The outside is crispy to an ideal level, and the seitan on the inside tastes reasonably chicken-like. It's a tad drier, but we made up for that by dousing it with ketchup (there's HP sauce and Sriracha if that's more your bag). As for the chips, they were fantastic — none of that soggy nonsense you sometimes get in chicken shops — if a tad salty, so you won't be needing a Chicken Connoisseur-esque salt'n'shake.
The burger was more of a mixed bag. It claimed to contain some vegan version of bacon, but this facon held little resemblance to its meaty counterpart, tasting a bit like burnt veg. The burger was also a little under-filled — some bites we took were nothing but bread.
The coleslaw was excellent, with quite a vinegary taste which may not agree with all palates. The cans of Lemony Lemonade and Karma Cola washed it down nicely, but we can't help feeling ripped off paying £1.50 for a can that's actually smaller than a normal can of Coke.
Overall the food was good, but not amazing — although the same could probably be said of most regular chicken shops in London. It was pretty expensive, and though we'd eaten well, we couldn't shake the feeling that we weren't totally full as we were leaving. It didn't matter anyway, we weren't getting back in that queue.
Temple of Seitan is open noon-8pm, Wednesday-Sunday, 10 Morning Lane, E9 6NA.
All photos by the author.
Last Updated 18 January 2018