Chronic is fried chicken for grown ups. Literally- their usual home at Kongs just up the street is 18s and over only- but also in marked contrast to the drab disappointment of a nearby big-money franchise with prime footfall.
There, tenders arrived so limp I half expected Pelé to pop up with a reassuring word and the offer of a blue pill. Puzzling, when they are advertised as cooked to order: but not as puzzling as the sheer speed of service. (Top tip: if you claim to ‘cook to order’- and trumpet it as the core of what you do- it might be advisable to maintain that illusion by letting me reach my table four metres away before you arrive with my food. It isn’t a race. Then again, perhaps it takes some special genius to be that droopy and still come too soon..?)
My daughter liked hers. But then she’s seven. She has an excuse.
Anyhoo. I come to praise Chronic, not to bury the bland. It just confirms that Cardiff’s city centre is crying out for the good stuff. And Chronic is that and more: their food reaffirms your Faith in Fried Chicken (a possible fourth album title, there) by staying true to basic ideas of what it could and should be.
I’ve eaten at Kongs a couple of times and, impressed, found myself hankering after them recently, but they don’t deliver as far out as my mountain lair: so it was a happy necessity to eat them at their best, within yards of the kitchen. Besides, what else are those benches for? Where better than an assignation for some Hot Poultry Action?
The strips: substantial cuts of breast, brined in buttermilk for that collision of tenderness and crispness you crave. There’s gravy with body and depth. There’s no finger-slicking coat of grease on this meat. It’s the kind of detail you’ll appreciate, especially when they’re hardly any more expensive than those flaccid chain attempts.
Chips are grooved, dusted with parmesan and laced with garlic butter. The optional cheese sauce, one of those oozingly sticky-tangy orange concoctions, makes perfect sense draped over the ridges and grooves, the sort of stuff which is all the better for not being subject to a 20 minute wait before eating. There’s sweet heat in the gochujang- or a whole Korean burger slathered in the stuff- but for something wantonly indulgent just order their chicken gravy in the ‘XXXL’ size and unleash it. All over. Oh go on: you know it makes sense. Meaty, clinging, glossy, peppery, with more levels than a nearby multistorey, it’s a must-order.
Meal boxes come in two sizes- a hulking silky-fleshed thigh, fries, pickles and a dip of choice- with the small version at £8. We add bacon and gochujang for a hot mess Lucille Bluth could love.
Breast for strips, thighs for burgers. The honey butter burger is no small thing- that’s the telltale caramelised bronze of an Alex Gooch vegan challah potato bun, the smoke and salt and snap of bacon and then that meat, locally farmed to high standards, a sizeable but tender slab.
The coating is one of the best things about Chronic- using vigorously seasoned flour, rather than a classic thick egg batter, gives noticeably lighter results. When it hits the oil it makes ruffs and frills for the oil to play, but without soaking up too much, a crucial difference between Chronic and lesser examples.
It is clearly drained and rested well before serving. I’m sure it slows things down in the kitchen. On the face of it these are small differences. But they end up being decisive ones.
The meat-free alternative to the strips is halloumi laced with chilli honey. There’s an expanded menu of vegan burgers, too- they all team something called a ‘chick’n patty’ with that same Alex Gooch roll to offer more choice than many. In fact, their current menu seems to have added vegan options to the Kongs lineup. There’s something here for us all.
All other things being equal, why you’d go elsewhere within walking distance for a proper binge is beyond me. With dedicated independent chicken spots thin on the ground and good ones even more so, this is chicken to celebrate: Chronic is the belt holder, our local poultry potentate, the current city centre chicken champ. We finally have the dedicated fried chicken place we deserve.
Browse the menu and order via their site https://pay.yoello.com/v/chronic/menu
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This blog is a very simple thing.
I won’t try to sell you any hand lotion, exercise programmes, coffee syrups or Patagonian nose flutes. You won’t find tips on dating, ‘wellness’ or yoga mats.
I write because I love it (and food, as indicated by my increasing girth). Greed happens to be my Deadly Sin of choice, but at least it is never shy of providing me with subject matter.
A simple thing, then: all you get is me wittering on semi-coherently about places I’ve eaten at; hence a ‘restaurant blog’ rather than a ‘food blog’, although there are a few recipes scattered throughout.
From mezze to Michelin ‘fine dining’ and all points in between.