Sitting in the Briar Rose at one in the afternoon, I lounged happily opposite my meat-eating plus one, sipping on a pint of Worthington’s. A man at the table in front of me turned sideways, politely out of the view of his guest, and popped his false teeth out, stowing them in a plastic case with one quick, toilet plunger sound. Pop.
I tabled my pint and looked to Robson desperately for reassurance that would not come – he’d missed the whole thing. Wetherspoons had never felt more Wetherspoons to me than it did at that moment, but I accepted it, turning back to my small mountain of food and clinging desperately to my appetite. I actually love a cheap and cheerful boozer, along with all the eccentricities that come with being in one.
I was here on a mission to try items from Wetherspoons’ new menu that launched today, among which is a ‘boneless basket’ of chicken. I’d brought Robson along as a meat correspondent, considering I’m veggie, and he seemed pretty impressed with his own plate.
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There’s something familiar and comforting about those blue and white plates, false teeth be damned, that centered me. Mine was covered in chips, spiced with some kind of seasoning and piled beside a basket filled with Quorn nuggets, a side of sauce and a pot of coleslaw.
Robson’s had “Mexican rice” instead of chips, real fried chicken strips and bites, barbecue sauce and a pot of coleslaw. We were both pretty impressed with our lot at first glance, served by friendly staff, quickly. Just what you want on your lunch hour.
The chicken looked fresh and crisp, not sizzling with grease like KFC’s version but fluffy looking, like clouds in a magic hour sky. I waited with baited breath for the Meat Guy’s first impression.
He seemed impressed, ruminating over his mouthful as I shovelled Quorn nuggs into my cakehole. They’re not new to Wetherspoons (they do a pretty good Quorn nugget wrap already), but they’re new to this iteration – in a basket, American diner style.
Robson nodded with his eyes closed, the universal non-verbal for ‘this is tasty’. It tasted ‘fresh’ he said, somewhat surprised. Good quality chicken, he remarked, looking at the white meat beneath the crispy coating, though not as crispy as KFC. As a self-confessed KFC die-hard, he could not commit to saying it was better. It was good, but simply could not step to the OG Colonel.
Robson lived in Mexico for awhile and so he could not really vouch for the quality of the ‘Mexican rice’ on his plate either. “It tastes like Uncle Ben’s Mexican rice,” he told me, and we swapped plates so he could eat my chips instead. I really enjoyed the texture of the rice, cooked really nicely, not too dry and not sticky and overdone. The flavor was neither here nor there, it was just fine. I ate it all, so I certainly could not complain. I’m not sure I’d order it again, but it filled the hole.
Robson, on the other hand, had eaten every morsel of his ‘good quality’ chicken, the meat tender enough that our gummy table neighbor could have handled it. The batter was a six or seven out of ten, he said, but the chicken itself was much better than any Wetherspoons chicken he’d had before.
Both baskets had been £ 7.95, or £ 9.25 with a pint of beer. Higher than your average Wetherspoons meal but still a far cry from ‘expensive’. We both left our entry-level coleslaw, tried but largely untouched. It wasn’t anything special, drowning in mayo and crunchy, and Robson had to abandon a handful of chips after filling up on chicken.
We enjoyed what was left of our pints and got up to leave, making sure we did not leave anything behind. Wallet? Check. Coat? Check. Teeth? Check.
All in all, we’d spent £ 18.90 for the two of us to have a nice, quick and filling lunch on a work day, including beers. Good value, but I think next time we’ll pop to KFC when we have a craving for fried chicken, veggie or otherwise.
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