When Colonel Sanders began KFC in 1930, he was way ahead of the game. It still took years after Nando’s kicked off in 1987 before people realised the power chicken holds but over the last year operators have cottoned on and chicken has been one of the biggest success stories in eating out, along with gourmet versions of American favourites such as burgers and hot dogs.
Several companies have put all their eggs in one basket and gone down the route of exclusively fowl-focused menus. Renowned chef Mark Hix opened the Tramshed in Shoreditch, east London with a menu purely of chicken and beef; Wishbone in Brixton, which offers a plethora of chicken-based inventions such as salt ‘n’ pepa thighs with Asian mayo and lime (£6) and a buffalo block with chicken thigh, cheese, hash brown, jalpenos, onion and coleslaw with Russian dressing (£7.50); and Clockjack Oven in Soho, central London, which offers rotisserie roasted chicken in a marinade with a house sauce of the customers’ choice from three pieces (£6.95) to ten (19.95).
Among other options
The exclusive chicken menu is not such a good fit for pubs, but many have brought the trend in on sections of the menu, or else started theme nights or sharing ideas. JD Wetherspoon has just launched a 'Wing It' chicken club night on Wednesday evenings.
Between 12 noon and 11pm customers can dine on an exclusively chicken-focused menu including dishes such as peri peri roast half chicken; southern fried-style chicken strips with honey glaze; or 10 buffalo wings served with hot sauce and blue cheese dip. All dishes are served with coleslaw, chips or a side salad and dressing
The Parlour at Kensal Green, north-west London was one of the first to create a new take on chicken nuggets. Chef proprietor Jesse Dunford Wood introduced McTucky’s popcorn chicken nuggets (£6) onto the menu about two years ago and they have been a hit. Having been struck with inspiration by masters of chicken Ronald McDonald and KFC’s Colonel Sanders he developed their "love child" served with popcorn and coated in "secret herbs and spices".
The pub also does a child’s version unseasoned and between the two around 15 are sold each weekday with 30 selling daily at the weekend. It makes around 65% GP, which is slightly lower than the pub’s average due to using premium chicken breast.
Dunford Wood developed the dish as a way of using up chicken thighs, but had to replace it with breast after people thought the meat too pink.
"Feedback ranges from ‘spectacular’ to ‘jaw-dropping’," he says.
"I don’t think it will ever stop being the world’s favourite meat because everybody loves chicken," says Dunford Wood. "However, I think we are getting a bit tired of the chicken-themed restaurant and I don’t think the new openings will continue at the furious rate that they have over the last year or two."
The burger can do no wrong, it seems, but it doesn’t all have to be beef. Anglian Country Inns’ Hermitage Road in Hitchin, Hertfordshire boasts a spiced marinated chicken burger with guacamole, tomato & chorizo relish and red onion (£10), which is only "marginally" less popular than the beef burger, selling up to 120 a week. Head chef Dan Woosey says: "The chicken burger is really different and extremely tasty, served in a brioche bun. It is slightly more healthy than the beef burger as the fat content is lower and we make a good margin on it."
The UK has gone crazy for bar snacks with sausage rolls, scotch eggs and pork pies cropping up all over the place - and a dedicated competition for each to boot. The latest sensation to join the ranks of snacks is the cock scratching - a take on the classic pork scratchings but made with chicken.
New kid to Carnaby Street in Soho, London Whyte & Brown has sold chicken scratchings since opening last summer. On the Whyte & Brown menu, ‘cock scratchings’ are known as chicken crisps and are served in clear pots for £2, lightly seasoned with salt.
The restaurant concept is focusing on food made from chicken and eggs with other innovative dishes including Bancock Scotch egg with pickled cucumber, which is made with minced chicken; chicken and pancetta croquette balls and mini Welsh rarebit sausages made with chicken.
Marston’s Inns & Taverns is rolling out its rotisserie and carvery concepts, having worked with a design team to make the ‘traditional’ pursuit more appealing to a younger demographic. The Guelder Rose in Southport near Blackpool was the first of the new generation of carvery sites with capacity for 180 inside and 60 outside. Widespread appeal was achieved through a new design entailing brighter, lighter space with with an illuminated ‘carvery’ sign built into the floor and penty of American-style boooth seating and benches.