The best food is a mixture of flavours, textures, smells and aesthetics. It should be a visceral experience. It should hit receptors you didn’t even know you had and unearth memories long digested. It should transcend chewing and tasting into something altogether more celestial. Alternatively, it should just be stuck into 180°C boiling oil and fried to a majestic beige crisp. Because deep-fried foods are also the best and these are the restaurants that know it.
As evidenced by its name, the Fryer’s Delight knows what we’re on about with this guide. The old school, formica-filled, Italian-owned chippy is a classic. And what comes out of its bubbling oil isn’t too shabby either. Crunching chubby chips, golden brown battered sausages and paddle-sized pieces of fish are a given from this Bloomsbury spot. Just don’t forget the scraps.
The crunch factor on Tong Dak’s fried chicken is, put simply, undeniable. It’s why this Korean fried chicken spot in New Malden is such a winner. They’ve got a bunch of different flavours like honey butter, and garlic soya, but the fried original is where the extreme crunch is at. Salty, slightly spicy, and unbelievably crispy, this will soon become your new favourite fried chicken spot in London.
Innovation comes in many forms but none is more impressive than whoever decided to stick mac ‘n’ cheese in the old fat fryer. They are a sort of coronary in culinary form but that’s also sort of Meatliquor’s remit: deep-fried pickles, hash browns, buffalo wings, and lots of other bits to dip and slowly digest.
That Taiwanese fried chicken. The cuboid gooey deep-fried cheese bao covered in curry sauce. A Taiwanese take on chicken kiev. These are just three examples of the crisp and creative joys to be found on various menus from Bao around London. In fact, their latest location in Shoreditch is no different with its 16 spice seasoned crispy tripe served with a side of spring onion dip or oozing their Ogleshield and jalapeño rolls. A deep-fried destination.
Few plates of food are as unashamedly fried or as genuinely fear-inducing to the weak stomached as La Barra’s fried chicken. It comes in three sizes, the smallest of which could tide you over for a week. The batter created in the kitchen of this basement Colombian spot in Elephant & Castle is otherworldly-looking: swirled and jagged, with a golden brown crunch that looks like it’s come from another dimension, while the chicken inside remains perfectly moist. On top of that, a side of chicharrones and plantain is completely unnecessary and totally welcome.
Any meal that devotes an entire section to deep-fried cooked foods clearly respects the technique and understands the unbridled delight that’s delivered when the boxes marked golden, crunchy and molten hot inside are ticked. Dim sum is that meal and Orient is your place. You’ve got your sweet char siu-filled croquettes, your sesame prawn toast, spring rolls and an array of beige-ish tinged mystery parcels (usually filled with prawns).
Absolutely everything you order at Koya can include the never-not-welcome addition of tanuki for 60p or so. Tanuki is tempura batter flakes, a welcome mouthful of crunchy goodness to pretty much anything and everything. Of course there’s the actual tempura as well, or crispy prawn heads, or a slab of tonkatsu.
In the pantheon of deep-fried goodies, of gold, shimmering, and potentially nuclear hot orders, the tater tot has a special place. Partly because they’re something of a novelty over here and partly because they have such a silly name. The popcorn hash browns are something a little special when done well, especially when they’re drowning in cheese whiz like at Passyunk Avenue.
The Treats Club
There’s something about food, stuffed inside other food, that gets us inappropriately excited. And The Treats Club Dessert Bar in Netil Market is serving up all sorts of stuffed sweet treats. Think Oreo-stuffed doughnuts sundaes, Biscoff salted caramel hot glazed doughnuts, and smores hot chocolates. That’s the beauty of fried food: it can be filled with sugar as well.