KFC Newport has been an Island institution long enough for most of us to get accustomed to its presence. When we last reviewed it back in 2005 we were scathing about the ‘hideous, abattoir-like’ architecture, but had to admit that the food was not unpleasant. Well, twelve years and about 500 reviews later, and we’re back, looking for a late-night chicken supper. It’s time to give KFC another spin of the wheel.
Because we’re at the age when we’re easily confused, scanning the backlit menu in any fast food joint can be a bewildering array of seemingly similar offerings with enticing but cryptic names. Fillet or zinger? Tower or burger? Popcorn or boneless dips? Who can be sure what any of this means? Yet there they are, available in box combos, buckets or variety packs.
Determined to make like Jay Rayner and choose against her natural instincts, Cat pointed at the festive mighty bucket for one. Festive bucket. For one. Let those words sink in a minute. Years ago Cat had a young friend who, with some of his colleagues from a game shop, had their works Christmas outing at Newport’s KFC. For a bunch of lads it was probably a reasonable choice; plenty of hot fried food, pimple-enhancing lighting and budget meals. As apt as their seasonal KFC celebration was, the description ‘festive mighty bucket for one’ has a certain pathos.
Not being a farm animal, Cat has never eaten out of a bucket. She is also not keen on eating hot food with her hands, nor drinking through a straw like a child. Lifting the meat from the bucket and serving it on her scalloped-edged paper plate, with a handful of ‘festive fries’ alongside, it started to look like a civilised meal. OK, there wasn’t any greenery, nor metal cutlery – only a plastic fork – but that was adequate enough to spear the chips. The original-recipe chicken she decided to eat like a native, twirled between her fingers as she nibbled the flesh from its bone.
It was all quite flavoursome; presumably the legendary Colonel Sanders knew a thing or two when applying his mixology skills to herbs and spices. The festive fries had a smoked paprika coating; the mini fillets were slightly peppery with a hint of salt. No hot wings were available so there had been a late substitution of more fillet – totalling five pieces of chicken, plus enhanced fries and a bottle of Tropicana all for £6.69. The meat was pretty succulent – especially that on the bone – and, despite sitting in its bucket while Cat fussed around taking photos and dilly-dallying about, all the meat was still piping hot to the core.
The fillet tower burger Matt chose was delivered in a little box, which opened to reveal a substantial chicken slab in a bun, topped with a kind of hash-brown potato patty that squashed satisfyingly into the chicken when bitten. Better, the chicken wasn’t some sort of reformed slab, but a proper chunk of breast meat, fried in the famous KFC spicy batter. It all held together well enough, not falling apart or squirting sauce down Matt’s shirt; and best of all, it was a hot, tasty dish that he enjoyed. Alongside a couple of bags of lacklustre fries just about made the grade, and a massive vat of fizzy sugar-water completed the meal. Incredible value for just £5.59, and worth it for the chicken burger alone.
Choosing dessert involved the unravelling of KFC’s own lingo again, just as the main course. What differentiated a kream ball from a krushems or a sundae? They all looked pretty cold and milky. Cat asked for a recommendation and, taking her request seriously, the young chap at the counter kindly explained the difference. Cat placed her order for a caramel fudge kream ball and a white chocolate krushems. “That’s my favourite!” confessed server Nick. There was a bit of business about the krushems machine being decommissioned – after all it was about ten minutes from closing time on a Saturday night and the staff were waiting for the late onslaught from the drive-through as the doors to the restaurant were now locked. A lock-in at KFC! How decadent! The matter of the pudding was resolved with the delivery of a fifty pence refund and an indulgent chocolate kream ball.
Festive mighty bucket meal £6.69
Large fillet tower meal £5.59
Kream ball x 2 @ £1.49 £2.98
Anyone who’s ever made a pig of themselves at Pizza Hut‘s ice cream factory (yes Cat, you can put your hand down now), will know that it’s yer basic vanilla whippy enhanced with sugary nuggets of this and that with perhaps a syrupy squirt. The KFC kream ball is pretty much that; a twirl of vanilla ice cream with sweet fudge or chocolate studs and sauce. It wasn’t too bad, although the bullet-hard fudge specks were hardly “gooey caramel fudge chunks” as suggested. Cool, but not painfully cold, it hit the spot after the chicken dinner and was only £1.49 a portion.
Of course we could waffle on about food provenance, animal welfare, single-use plastics and minimum wage employees. Or we could celebrate a long-established international brand that is actually serving high protein, low(ish) fat meals which are tasty and within most people’s budget as an occasional treat. Service at KFC was better than you’d think. No, even better than that! We’re conditioned to expect indifference from fast-food workers if we’re lucky. Not so here. We got served almost instantly, with plenty of interaction from the cheerful and helpful staff. Cat asked all sorts of questions about her food – the KFC crew were happy to indulge her, and what’s more, they actually knew about the food they were serving, and gave her the answers she sought.
So, business as usual at KFC and we haven’t even talked about its hipster makeover, with the copper wire skeleton lampshades and wood finishes. Of course, it’s easy to be snobbish about out-of-town retail parks and fast food joints but it doesn’t stop them being popular. Newport’s KFC is no exception and we can see why.
This is the full-length version of the review that appeared in the Isle of Wight County Press.
- Good service
- Dismal building and location