Restaurant review: Southern Fried ChickenBy Hugh Fort
February 20, 2013
Most people’s thoughts turn to fried chicken either at around 2am on a Friday or a Saturday night after a few too many pints, or at 2pm the day after.
So, the ultimate test as to whether it’s any good or not is surely trying it out at lunchtime on a sunny yet chilly Monday in February – and that’s what I did.
Not having spent my Sunday night boozing, I entered Southern Fried Chicken in Whitley Wood without the sort of crashing hangover which leaves one craving the grease and salt combo you usually find in fried chicken outlets.
From my experience at other fried chicken vendors the images I had in my head were oily, glistening hunks of dripping, tasteless chicken covered in a greasy, slimy batter which would probably have been sitting in a heated container for several hours.
But I should probably stop being so cynical because Southern Fried Chicken offered something refreshingly different.
As I walked through the door I noticed how a) the kitchen was spotlessly clean and b) there was no smell of disgusting congealing week-old cooking oil.
After this undoubtedly good start I was greeted by managing director Andrew Withers.
If you think he may look familiar, he actually featured on the Channel 4 show Back to the Floor where high-flying execs got their hands dirty with the staff.
Nowadays, unless you’re a particularly slow learner, most people know that eating fried food every single day is about as good for you as being hit by a train.
While Andrew concedes fried chicken isn’t top choice for health freaks, he maintains it can be part of a balanced diet.
That may raise an eyebrow or two with nutrition types but his justifications are so:
“I hate the term fast food – it implies junk and it implies rubbish,” he said. “I much prefer the term fast service.
“Our chicken is freshly prepared on the site, we have strict rules about our oil and we offer grilled piri piri options.
“Chicken itself is an excellent source of protein and our piri piri wraps are an excellent, low-carb alternative to the fried chicken.
“Frying is still the accepted quickest way to cook meat, but we’re keen to stress not to eat fried food every day.”
Andrew and the staff laid on a range of chicken-based treats for me to try and first up were the Hot’n’Flakey wings (£4.50 for six).
The batter had a spicy hit, not the sort that instantly makes your nose stream and leaves you grasping for anything cold, but just right.
People who don’t like a lot of salt should be told it this batter was quite salty, but I like that.
Next was the most popular, the fillet burger.
What I always notice about food from a certain famous fast-food chicken outlet (which shall remain nameless) is that its chicken burgers are really mushy and its chips are soggy and mostly cold.
I’m never keen on meat you don’t have to chew much, or strangely the other end of the cheap chicken-scale, which is overly chewy, but SFC’s chicken is neither.
The Fillet Burger (£4.20 for a meal with fries and a drink), which combines a mildly-spiced battered chicken breast with salad and mayo, is excellent.
Chicken breast can often be dry but Andrew’s staff have tried to combat the problem by marinating the chicken before it is battered and thrown into their pressure frier, which apparently means 50 per cent less oil is absorbed into the chicken.
I found it was still a little dry, but it was tasty.
Also in my magnificent chicken platter was a tangy Piri Piri Grilled Chicken Wrap and a side of coleslaw, which was crunchy but not smothered in light mayonnaise.
The menu also includes a beefburger, which will please certain commentors on our getreading website, but I didn’t try it.
Eating a burger in a chicken place is not really what it’s for.
For those of you particularly hit by the night before, SFC delivers to areas around Reading and Wokingham, and Andrew has hopes to open new restaurants in Reading town centre and Tilehurst in the future.
So, my Monday lunchtime trip to Southern Fried Chicken was a big success, I’ll be going back – but just not every day.
- Telephone: 0118 9757200
- Website: www.southernfriedchicken.com
- Address: Southern Fried Chicken
164 Whitley Wood Road,