I love chicken. I love it fried, braised, barbecued, stewed, roasted. Chances are as long as it’s chicken, I will eat it and I will love it. I could probably eat chicken all year without complaining. You could probably say I am slightly pollo loco!
I’m lucky that most of the fast food restaurants in the Philippines serve chicken. While it may sound weird to some people, chicken is almost always served with rice and some sort of gravy or sauce. But most places that serve fried chicken will almost always have mashed potato and gravy on the menu as a side. It probably seems very American but there you go. Fried chicken and mashed potato in gravy is, in my opinion, a match made in fried chicken heaven!
When I lived in Atlanta for a while, my love for Southern fried chicken grew. Chicken in the South was so much better than KFC (and don’t get me wrong, KFC in the South seems to be even better than the usual, but that may just be me!) and the mashed potato was even more amazing than the mashed potato that you got in those little styrofoam tubs that you got from fast food restaurants. I was in chicken heaven. Every single element of southern fried chicken made me smile: from the crispy fried chicken batter to the juicy chicken pieces! To borrow KFC’s slogan, PROPER southern fried chicken was of the finger-lickin’ good variety.
I moved to England nearly 4 years ago and I think I spent nearly that much time looking for great fried chicken. Don’t get me wrong, the various southern fried chicken take away places do have their merits, particularly the ones near us. They’re okay, not amazing, but okay if I needed a fried chicken fix. But obviously, it was chicken and chips (I used to call them fries) and not chicken and mash…and I almost always had to make my own gravy. No one seemed to think that mashed potato and gravy was a good flavour combination. I even went to my old standby KFC, expecting to see the same things on the menu but boy, was I disappointed! There was no mashed potato and there was no gravy and the chicken wasn’t as good as I thought it was. And so began my quest for the perfect southern fried chicken.
I’ve bought chicken from lots of places, from different supermarkets, had meals in a lot of restaurants but I’ve never really found the kind of chicken that I really enjoyed: crispy, flavourful batter, slightly salty and juicy chicken. Until that fateful day in July. Alan had read about Roost who served chicken with mashed potatoes and gravy. And not just any chicken, it was chicken marinated in buttermilk, battered and fried! It was proper southern fried chicken, the way southern fried chicken is supposed to be made! Or at least that’s what it said it was. After looking for nearly 4 years, I think you wouldn’t blame me for being slight skeptical.
We made our way to the Dalston location Friday after work where that week’s Street Feast London was happening and ordered a serving: 2 pieces of buttermilk chicken with gravy and mash. I was prepared to be disappointed. But as I stabbed my fork into that crispy batter, the crackle that I heard calmed my doubtful heart. Batter that sounded like that had to be some sort of good! And bite of juicy chicken with a little bit of batter made me smile. It was SO good! The next bite had to be a fork-full of chicken, batter, mashed potato and gravy had me closing my eyes in absolute enjoyment. I’m salivating while thinking back to that first mouthful of chicken-mash-gravy. The chicken was perfect and the mash was creamy-buttery. I made the decision to share a 2-piece chicken meal with Alan (yes, I have been known to demolish a 2-piece chicken meal with gravy and rice in the Philippines!) because we were at Street Feast LDN and there were other food places to try (and, if I’m honest, because I had prepared for disappointment, I didn’t want to have too much of the chicken left over if I didn’t like it! I am, apparently, a fussy eater!). But as we walked away from that parking lot in Dalston, I was thinking about the chicken. I wanted to turn around and order another chicken with gravy and mash to take back with me! It was THAT good!
We had our next taste of chicken when Eat Street was at Exhibition Road 2 weeks later (a little thing called the Olympics had descended on London). This time we each had a 2-piece meal, absolutely no sharing! And I’m very glad to report that the chicken and gravy and mash were as perfect as I remember.
If you’re ever in London and in a street food market, and you spy the Roost truck, run, don’t walk, to it and ask for a 2-piece chicken meal with gravy and mash as a side. You won’t regret it! To find out where Roost are, follow them on Twitter. They are @weareroost.
I cannot wait until the next Roost fix!