Pick two: good, fast, or cheap. It’s a truism that applies to pretty much everything, but especially food and restaurants.
Example: in our formative years, my mate Maxine and I used to pick up a KFC Mega Bucket after a night out at Oceania, Milton Keynes’ premier nightspot. KFC Mega Buckets are an excellent example of something that is fast, cheap and shit, but god knows back then it hit the spot. In our defence, we were eighteen and giddy from the combined effects of the Sugababes and eight back-to-back Smirnoff Ices.
A decade later and the thought of KFC and its nefarious supply chain turns my stomach. I’ve tried most of the upmarket alternatives in London but none, with the sole exception of Chicks n Sours, have impressed. But they’ve got competition, because Butchies is the latest FC phenomenon to join London’s buoyant junk food scene, and the chicken is absolutely INSANE.
Like many of its kind, Butchies snuck in through the back door after years of selling out at various food festivals and street markets, and now has a proper grown-up restaurant in Shoreditch. We popped in for a bit of stomach lining ahead of a booking at Alcotraz, Brick Lane’s new prison-themed, bring-your-own-alcohol cocktail bar.
(I cannot believe I just had to write that. What is this city.)
Obviously, chicken is the star here – don’t even bother with the flaccid, over-salted chips – and you’ll find it fried to an otherworldly perfection. Mostly in sandwiches, which start at £6.00 for ‘The Original’, though you’d have to be demented (or on a very sad diet) not to treat yourself to ‘Jenny From The Block’ (£9.50), which comes with smoked streaky bacon, guacamole and chipotle mayo. Everything comes with shredded lettuce which you’ll barely notice, but it adds a pop of colour and I suppose in a pinch averts scurvy.
Strangely, there are no fried chicken bits and bobs, no Butchies buckets, except some wings. But what wings! The kimchi honey-butter flavour – my god, my arteries just clanged typing that – won the judge’s choice award at last year’s Wingfest, and should be ordered as a glorious sharing side, especially as you’re not getting chips. (Yes, I am suggesting meat with a side of meat. Atkins, innit.)
The honey-butter sauce – sweet and salty, with a proper kick to it – is quite thin and drippy but the rugged buttermilk coating has enough structural integrity to stave off sogginess. They’ve also managed to work out how to get the batter to properly hug each piece of meat. This is important, because there’s nothing worse than fried chicken batter scabbing off into your lap, leaving dry, or worse, slimy meat behind. NOTHING WORSE. After a bit of probing, we were told that the secret to this is a pressure fryer, which through some combination of magic and technology creates crispy, un-greasy batter with unusually juicy meat. Sadly they are also very expensive, otherwise Amazon would be delivering me one tomorrow.
It was fast, too. We were in a bit of a mad rush due to some festive Bank Holiday signalling failures on the District Line, and we were in and out in less than 40 minutes, despite it being completely rammo.
And, yes, it’s cheap. My original-style chicken sandwich cost just 61p more than a large Chicken Legend sandwich from McDonalds, which is quite incredible considering that all Butchies’ chicken is free-range, and its little one-shop operation can’t even begin to compete with the buying power of the golden arches. You can easily eat your way into a happy little coma – with a beer, or a pre-mixed cocktail from Longflints – with change from a twenty.
Sure, there are some minor irritations. The little tubs of dip are too small. The fries, as already mentioned, are objectively terrible. There is no phone number, even though – hurrah! – they take do take reservations. They are closed on Sundays, which is truly baffling considering that they sell possibly the post perfect hangover food in London. And the website has auto-playing background music. (So turn your volume off before you click through, yeah?)
But none of that really matters when the chicken is this good. Naturally, the restaurant is very casual, and the speedy service and cavalier attitude to cutlery (i.e. there isn’t any) doesn’t lend itself well to first dates. But if you need something fast, cheap and, yes, very, very good before or on a night out, you couldn’t pick anywhere better. Plus, it has an absolute banger of a playlist, so you can rock out with your cock out.
(There was no way I was getting through that without at least one terrible chicken pun, soz.)
Butchies, 22 Rivington Street, London, EC2A 3DY
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.