‘I went to UK’s first Popeyes and tried the chicken sandwich that broke the internet’

When it comes to fast-food restaurants, there are thousands of them dotted around the country and there’s about to be one more added to the list.

Louisiana chicken chain, Popeyes is setting up shop in Westfield Stratford City and opening for business on Saturday, November 20 and the food will also be available on Deliveroo.

Customers will be able to get their hands on a variety of fried chicken items from the menu – including wings, bites, tenders and the iconic chicken sandwich that broke the internet when it was launched back in 2019 in the US.

As well as all the chicken, the UK’s first-ever Popeyes will also be serving up cajun chips, mash, mac ‘n’ cheese, biscuits with cajun gravy and they are also introducing a brand new and exclusive vegan burger, the Creole Red Bean Sandwich.

If that weren’t enough there’s also a wide selection of sauces to accompany your food, such as Mango Habanero and a collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion on a hot sauce called Hottie.

The Mirror’s Courtney Pochin was invited down ahead of the launch to take a look behind the scenes, meet the team and give some of the food a try.

Here’s a look at what she thought…

Courtney at the UK’s first-ever Popeyes
(
Courtney Pochin)

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Until this week all I knew about Popeyes was that their Chicken Sandwich went viral, with customers across America queuing around the block to get their hands on one.

A total of 250 million Chicken Sandwiches were sold in the product’s first year and after visiting the new branch in Stratford I understand why people were so keen, as it really is worth the hype.

During my behind the scenes sneak peek, I got to have a go at making my own Chicken Sandwich, toasting a brioche bun, slathering on spicy mayo, adding two bread and butter pickles and a ginormous piece of fried chicken.

I then tucked in and was impressed by the crispiness of the chicken, something CEO Tom Crowley refers to as the “shatter crunch”.

The ingredients may sound rather simple, but that’s kind of the point, as they were all carefully chosen to allow the fried chicken to remain the star of the show.

The chicken sandwich is the star of the show and it’s as good as everyone says it is
(
Popeyes)

“At Popeyes, we focus on the quality of our ingredients and doing the basics brilliantly well,” explains Crowley.

“That’s one of the things we’ve done with the sandwich is keep it simple to focus on great ingredients. So really good bun, a really fresh brioche, 100 per cent fresh British chicken, nothing frozen.

“Then there’s good mayo, pickles (crucial part!) and I think those components keep it super simple to focus on quality and we keep the price right at £4.95, which is pretty competitive. We’ll let everyone judge the quality for themselves rather than it being higher priced.”

The Chicken Sandwich was definitely an upgrade on your average fast-food fare and I’d even go as far as to claim it’s better than the McChicken Sandwich or a KFC Fillet burger… I’m already craving another one.

Once Popeyes opens you’ll be able to try it for yourself, with a classic or spicy Chicken Sandwich priced at £4.95 or £7.95 for a meal with a regular side and drink.

The biscuits and cajun gravy are a must!
(
Courtney Pochin)

As well as giving the Chicken Sandwich a try, Peter Genna, the Director of Global Culinary Innovation and Product Development for Popeyes recommends ordering the Signature Louisiana Chicken, with a pot of the Mardi Gras Mustard and a Lotus Biscoff Shake to wash it down.

The Signature Chicken Meal (£5.95 for a two-piece) contains chicken on the bone, marinated for 12 hours in the company’s signature blend of Louisiana herbs and spices, one regular side, one drink and one biscuit.

And if you’re getting a biscuit then you simply must order a pot of cajun gravy to go with it.

Biscuits and gravy are incredibly popular in the US but the concept is bound to baffle some customers here as the biscuits look just like scones – and they are pretty similar, but with a slightly more savoury taste.

Once you get over the initial feeling of bemusement and drown your plate in cajun gravy it’s hearty comfort food at its best. Trust me.

The chicken wings come in classic or spicy
(
Courtney Pochin)

So what’s the verdict?

Ultimately, I’d say I was a Popeyes convert and I’m excited for everyone to get to have a taste of Louisiana in London.

The prices are pretty generous for the portion sizes and the fried chicken (all halal) was super crunchy and full of flavour – with the hot wings and spicy sandwich packing a real kick.

I love that Popeyes is staying true to its American roots and offering customers something that’s familiar (fast food) but also completely different, with more unusual items on the menu like biscuits and gravy.

Also, it’s worth noting that the company, while being an iconic American brand, is going to be sourcing 95 per cent of ingredients locally in the UK instead of importing from the US. They’ve also signed the Better Chicken Commitment, which aims to improve the lives of chickens in their supply chain.

If you enjoy fried chicken and want to try something new, then this is definitely the place for you.

Owned by Restaurant Brands International, which also owns Burger King, Popeyes already has 350 branches in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

Over in the US, the menu also features items such as cajun fried shrimp and a flounder sandwich. If all goes well with the UK launch we could see similar items added over here in the future.

Popeyes have yet to confirm where else in the UK they will be opening, but CEO Tom Crowley said he is looking forward to the expansion, which will feature dine-in restaurants and drive-thrus.

“Our vision for our UK launch is ambitious and bold. All our locations will be carefully chosen in communities that echo the Louisianan spirit synonymous with Popeyes. We’re looking forward to unveiling our next sites in due course, and revealing more about our expansion into new locations in 2022 and beyond,” he told The Mirror.

This launch comes after another US chain recently opened, with Wendy’s bringing more burgers to the UK, after disappearing from the high street 21 years ago.

Will you be visiting Popeyes when it opens? Let us know in the comments below.

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