The inaugural Frank's RedHot and French's Summer Safari took place earlier this month and incorporated visits to some of the most exciting US-style concepts that east London has to offer
A group of operators and industry press joined McCormick principle research chef, Steve Love, who led the walking tour and provided commentary on the day and post-event feedback:
The brainchild of Scott Collins and Yianni Papoutsis, the Meat Liquor portfolio now has a stronghold of 12 sites. "Excess, heat and a hangover…" is what you can expect from the new W1 Meat Liquor site according to co-founder Scott Collins, who was on hand to welcome the safari delegates to Meat Mission, part of the Meat Liquor group.
Plates are banned and cutlery is optional at Meat Mission; guests are simply invited to roll up their sleeves to tuck into burgers, loaded fries, dogs and their much-copied, now-trademarked ‘Monkey Fingers': battered chicken strips drenched in a Frank's RedHot-inspired house sauce.
A dedicated queue of hungry, lunchtime revellers waited outside MotherClucker's converted ambulance on Dray Walk (behind the Truman Brewery) when the group arrived.
The sweet-tea-brined, buttermilk-soaked, twice-battered chicken is the hero menu item, featuring in all five of MotherClucker's sites and something New Orleans-born co-founder Brittney Bean explained was a lengthy process of trial and error to get right.
Love added: "London's street food economy is in rude health. Affordability, convenience, point of difference and, above all, authenticity, are high on the agenda with diners, and this type of eating has it all."
Founders Garret and Emer Fitzgerald serve free-range buttermilk chicken in all sorts of ways, including their infamous XXL Buffalo Tower burger. The restaurant has amassed a cult following, with the estate recently adding his second site.
Love clarified: "Butchies is ticking all the boxes for consumer preference: indulgence, informality and convenience. The Buffalo Tower is larger than life - you don't just eat it; you take a picture of it and talk about it and share it on sites like Instagram, which in turn builds notoriety and excitement. With the gourmet burger market as saturated as it is, experiential dining opportunities such as this are what will get customers through the door."
Basit Nasim, co-founder of HotBox has only one requirement when it comes to menu development - everything must be smoked. Not limited to traditional barbecue flavour combinations, HotBox menus are unashamedly inspired by cuisines from across the globe. Plant-based dishes such as the aubergine shawarma and jackfruit sliders are fast becoming menu favourites, and proudly sit alongside more traditional, but no less otherworldly, brisket, links and ribs.
One man who believes in the beauty of simplicity is Darul Rahman, founder of Sticky Wings and purveyor of not only London's best buffalo wings, but the second-best wings in the world (an award he received at the 2018 National Buffalo Wings competition in the US).
Rahman prides himself on serving buffalo wings the traditional way with few embellishments and very little fuss. His recipe is simple: Frank's RedHot sauce and unsalted butter. Passionate patrons travel from across the country and beyond to try these and his highly unique strawberry wings.
"In the US, buffalo wings are like a religion, something people get seriously passionate about," explained Love. "Here, the knowledge of what makes a good buffalo wing is improving slowly and it's people like Rahman who are flying the flag. The very fact that a chicken shop on Brick Lane can beat native buffalo teams at the National Buffalo Wings competition in the States tells you all you need to know. America may dominate the barbecue scene, but London is raising the stakes."