Chick N Sours: digit-sucking succulence or poultry fare?

REVIEW: checking out Haggerston's internationally inspired chicken offering

Seoul Destroyer: One of Chick N Sours' signature chicken burgers (Sandy Beeson)

The humble chicken shop is a London institution. If aficionados were to make a pilgrimage to crispy, fried utopia they’d probably end up somewhere on the A10. It snakes its way from the heart of the City out past the hipster hotspots of East London, lined with more places to get your chicken fix than any other part of the capital.

It’s here on Kingsland Road that Chick N Sours set up shop with their transcontinental take on a London staple. Step inside from the rough and tumble of raggedy Haggerston and you’re instantly greeted by loud tunes and even louder prints, hints of the less-than-subtle flavour manifesto outlined on their menu.

Once shown to a window seat, we trade glances with commuters being ferried home on the No. 149 bus, but while they’re served up with a cold plate of FOMO, we’re eyeing up a cosmopolitan menu thrown together with influences as far-flung as Mexico and Thailand.

First out is the Pickled Watermelon Salad which sounded too weird to pass on. Our reward was hearty chunks of watermelon, flecked with coriander and mint to bring an uncharacteristic sweetness, all complemented by an unexpected umami after-kick from the nahm jim sauce. It’s a bold opening statement and the result is a joyfully fresh, fruity palate cleanser.

If the watermelon was a leftfield selection, up next was pure comfort food: popcorn chicken. Far crispier than its namesake from Chick N Sours’ colonel-led competitor, the chicken is far juicier too. It comes seasoned with a sweet barbecue dust and served up alongside blue cheese dipping sauce.

We don’t have to wait long before we’re greeted by a double-header of Chick N Sours’ signatures burgers, the K-Pop and the Seoul Destroyer. No prizes for guessing which country’s cuisine served as the inspiration here.

The K-Pop is the more civilised of the two, topped with coleslaw and a pair of bold asian-based condiment cocktails, sriracha sour cream and gochujang mayo, letting the gloriously crispy chicken thighs take centre stage.

But, if the K-Pop is to cuisine what Korean viral hit-merchant Psy is to music, the Seoul Destroyer would be a happy hardcore rave in a Seoul warehouse; a napkin-necessitating hot mess.The chicken still steals the show, only this time it’s slathered in a tangy kimchi sauce and molten nacho cheese.

Disciples of various Asian cuisines will denounce both burgers, and most of the menu, as inauthentic cultural appropriation, but, when you can borrow from the larder of the world’s most flavoursome continent to elevate something as simple as a chicken burger, who gives a cluck?

Chick N Sours local neighbourhood contains an unusually high concentration of marketing types whose oft-repeated mantra that everything must ‘surprise and delight’ could easily be inspired by the many unlikely pairings that Chick N Sours serve up.

Even something as standard as a side order of fries comes with an Asian twist, this time courtesy of a sprinkling of sweet and salty seaweed. Unsurprisingly given Chick N Sours’ knack of throwing together strange combinations, this works too.

So we’ve had plenty of Chick, but what about the Sours? I suspect this refers to the vibrant looking list of cocktails on offer, but it could also quite easily be a nod to having to pay upwards from a tenner just for a burger. Not exactly chicken feed is it?

Despite the high prices, and the seemingly ubiquitous daylight robbery of the 12.5% ‘discretionary’ service charge, Chick N Sours takes your run-of-the-mill, wide-eyed, innocent chicken burger and sends it on a culinary gap yah. If you like your chicken, it’s well worth a pilgrimage of your own.

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