Suggest to me the notion of visiting a fried chicken shop, and I’d probably give you a disgusted scowl. PFC? Chicken Cottage? Spice Hut? These are not the dwellings of respectful gentlemen, least of all one as sanctimonious and snobbish as I am. For me, calories should be worth the quality, and when I reached the end of my schoolboy years, I vowed to never again set foot inside a chicken shop. Until now.
Hidden away in Camden Town, Famous Flames is the latest brainchild of Bea Vo’s “Feed Your Soul” family, and serves as a contemporary – (and some would say “gentrified”) take on London’s booming fried chicken scene. Confident that we would not be rendered unconscious by the smell of schoolchildren and ketchup, or killed off early by recycled vegetable oil, Steak and I headed over to bring an end to my chicken shop hiatus.
Halal status: All the food served here is certified halal.
The menu is composed of “tasty wings, flame-grilled burgers, waffle fries and more”, and aside from the familiar “chicken and waffles”, it shares very little in common with its elder siblings at Stax and Boondocks. We began our own meal with a box of Nashville wings, which were sticky, tender, and perfectly crispy. Each bite released a fiery heat and a rich sweetness, which was underpinned by a deep, smokey essence. This resulted in the kind of chicken wings you would serve to a spice-loving sadist, as Steak and I found ourselves biting into them again and again – despite the fact that our tastebuds were in considerable pain. If your tolerance for spice is as pathetic as our own, take heed of our warning, as these delightfully diabolical wings may leave you running for the canal.
Nashville wings (£5.50 for 6) *Recommended*
From the burger selection, we tried a doubled-up “Famous Flames Cheeseburger”, composed of dry-aged Sussex beef, American cheese, and the famous “Martin’s potato rolls”, which have been specifically imported in all the way over from the States. Some may raise an eyebrow to this fact, but given the way in which they melted in the mouth, I’d say it was well worth the expenditure. The patties themselves however, required a little more seasoning, and the flavour of the beef proved to be somewhat shallow. However, when paired with the American cheese and the soft, fluffy rolls, they delivered a very simple sense of satisfaction.
Famous Flames Cheeseburger (£7.50 – double)
We also tried the Honey Habanero chicken sandwich. Here, the crispy, sticky chicken tender was incredibly moist and flavoursome, and the sauce it had been coated in was simply fantastic. There was a soft, subtle honey sweetness, and a very slight tang, and the only real disappointment was that there wasn’t enough of it within the buns. As a result, the sandwich as a whole was a little dry, and we desperately wanted the teasing hint of the sauce to come out in full force.
Honey Habanero Chicken Sandwich (£6.50)
Improvements could also have been made with the waffle fries, which – though soft and crispy, were a little greasier than they needed to be, and left us with the heavy, greasy after-feel that we were hoping to avoid.
Waffle fries (top left) (£2.25/£3.75)
Value For Money: 3.5/5
Across the menu, burgers range from £5 to £9, wings cost either £5.50 (for 6) or £10 (for 12), and sides cost around £3. By normal “chicken shop” standards, this is certainly steep, but it’s worth remembering that as much as it claims to be, Famous Flames isn’t a typical chicken shop. The prices are certainly well in line with gourmet standards, and whilst there is marked room for improvement, a meal at Famous Flames shouldn’t leave you particularly worse off.
Service is also relatively speedy, and staff members are both friendly and welcoming. Although, some may be dismayed at the absence of a regular “bossman” at the helm.
The restaurant / takeaway itself is of a rather reasonable size, with a stool-based seating capacity of around fifteen. Despite Famous Flames’ nature as a takeaway, the Feed Your Soul team certainly haven’t skimped on the decor, which is rustic in every sense of the word. Worn wood is the primary constituent of its floors and walls, and almost every inch of it is covered in colourful posters, electric guitars, and – if one were to look up at the ceiling, an entire drum kit. Being on the ground floor, one can only assume that they wanted to make as much ruckus as possible for the neighbours upstairs. The restaurant can be found a short walk away from Camden Town station, and public transport is certainly advised.
With all the phenomenal food that can be found in our little London town, it’s a wonder that fried chicken shops remain so popular. The truth is however, that aside from a couple of self-righteous snobs – (such as myself), the humble fried chicken shop brings an affordable sense of unhealthy joy to thousands of Londoners, of all ages, and from all walks of life. Famous Flames doesn’t quite fit into this category – on account of it being a more upmarket version that many “chicken shop connoisseurs” simply wouldn’t consider, but as a “gourmet-fast-food” establishment, it does well in its own right. Was it a life-changing meal? Not really. Would I return? I doubt it. But if you’re in Camden Town and in need of halal food, you could do far worse than The Famous Flames.
The Famous Flames
Address: 11 Kentish Town Rd, London NW1 8NH
Telephone: 0203 137 2671
Disclaimer: We were invited to sample the menu at Famous Flames.