For some, the start of a brand new year is focused purely on healthy eating – but it didn’t stop the Bristol branch of Slim Chickens being packed to the rafters one Sunday lunchtime in early January.
The chicken restaurant opened on the top floor of Cabot Circus in late November 2019, just two doors down from Nandos, but the focus on chicken and the fact that you order your food at the counter (or via self-service machine, in Slim Chickens’ case) are the only things the two have in common.
Because Slim Chickens is all about the hand-breaded, buttermilk-dipped, rapeseed oil-fried, freshly cooked to order chicken, with sides including fries, Texas toast, mac and cheese, and a staggering choice of 13 different dips.
The first Slim Chickens opened in Fayetteville, Arkansas in 2013, with its UK expansion not happening till recently in 2018. Now, you’ll find them in London, Cardiff and, most recently, Slim Chickens Bristol, where their opening has created 50 local jobs.
It’s a pretty open space, decked out in natural wood and the brand’s signature red, with a mixture of booths and tables as well as a further, heated seating area outside the restaurant. It’s family-friendly too, with a huge stack of wooden highchairs available, and it’s amazing to watch how quickly the open kitchen at the back of the restaurant sends out both dine-in and takeaway orders.
Seriously quickly, in fact – no fewer than four minutes after placing our order at one of the self-service machines and taking our table number to a vacant table, our food arrived.
It wasn’t even enough time for us both to grab our bottomless soft drinks from the machines that many will recognise from Five Guys – the ones that allow you to choose from multiple flavours of Pepsi Max, 7Up, Tango and more. We were expecting it to be quick – after all, I’m guessing they have chicken and fries constantly being put through the fryers to pre-empt orders during busy times – but under five minutes was a surprise. It suggests it would be a great choice for those working in town and with a time-limited meal break.
We’d both ordered the 3 tenders meal (£7.45): three of the aforementioned chicken tenders served with fries, Texas toast, a bottomless soft drink and a choice of dip. And there’s no denying that the chicken was incredible – probably the best fried chicken I’ve ever had.
The meat itself was super succulent, no gristly bits or missed shards of bone to be seen. And the breading? Amongst the thinnest I’ve seen, but with absolutely masses of flavour – it was incredible.
The fries were ok…nice and fluffy and coated in a deliciously smokey seasoning which could have done with a little less salt. The Texas toast was a bit of a disappointment: a tiny triangle of pappy white bread (far smaller than the portions that were dished up at the Slim Chickens Bristol press launch) that was pretty flaccid and had an incredibly subtle garlic flavour.
We chose to share two different dips, and both were amazing: the creamy blue cheese dip was decently pungent, while the garlic and parmesan featured a great balance between the two flavours.
We both agreed that, if we went back, we’d probably forego the meals (which seemed expensive for what they were), and instead just go for chicken and choose a few of the other sides. Those sides may have been distinctly average, but with the chicken the focus of the Slim Chickens Bristol offering, it’s great to see that they do it not only right, but exceptionally well indeed.