11 Kentish Town Road, London NW1 8NH
Summary: A trendy, better quality version of your local chicken and burger shop, serving free range chicken and aged beef, but there are better burgers out there. OK as a stop-off if you’re in the area, but no need to make a special trip for it.
Food: 6.5/10 Atmosphere: 8/10 Service: 9/10 Value for money: 7.5/10
The Famous Flames is the latest, northernmost outpost of Bea Vo’s Feed Your Soul food empire, which is an homage to Deep South, American-style comfort food – think flame grilled burgers, chicken and waffles, pancakes and more. Unlike its sister restaurants (Stax and Boondocks), The Famous Flames is open for lunch and dinner only (the others offer brunch), so no pancakes here. Instead, it focuses on chicken: chicken wings, chicken tenders, chicken sandwiches (made with tenders sandwiched in between the Feed Your Soul signature potato rolls), all using free range chicken. It claims to be ‘the last “chicken shop” you will ever try’. It also offers flame-grilled burgers made with aged 28-day British beef from a traceable source, so from a quality standpoint this already sets it above your average chicken shop. Although I have eaten at Stax before and not been wildly impressed by their dinner menu (although their pancakes are very good), as this is quite local to me (it’s metres away from Camden Town tube station) I thought I’d give it a try. I placed a family-sized order to take away, and got a second and third opinion from my discerning dining companions (my family) for this review.
What we ordered: Double cheeseburger with waffle fries; the Buffalo and Nashville chicken sandwiches; cheesy waffle fries; three-strip serving of chicken tenders with garlic parmesan sauce.
I ordered the double cheeseburger which, at a gourmet burger place would be a ridiculous thing to do, but here felt right somehow. It was reasonably priced at £7.50 (single patty is £5.50), and I could see it being cooked right in front of my eyes in the open kitchen, which I liked (and it’s reassuringly clean and uncluttered). The burger itself is made of two smallish patties nestled in a Martin’s potato roll, and comes with lettuce, tomato, American cheese and Comeback sauce (their house sauce). I asked for the Comeback sauce on the side, and they provided sweet mustard and dill pickles in a separate container which was thoughtful – it meant the burger didn’t get soggy. I was pleased to see that there was cheese on both of my patties, but I wish that they’d use Swiss or even Monterey Jack instead of processed American cheese, which melts well (because it’s made of plastic goo) but tastes of nothing.
The burger itself was cooked well done (they didn’t ask me how I wanted it cooked – I prefer medium for my burgers), but was still juicy. However, it lacked seasoning, and needed a good dose of salt and pepper. The Comeback sauce and pickles improved the taste noticeably, but the burger itself was average – not bad, and definitely better than a regular burger place, but not excellent.
The waffle fries (£2.25 for small portion, and it’s a generous portion; cheesy fries £3.00) were soggy by the time I got them home and ate them, but that’s probably because they were steaming hot when they were packed into the takeaway box. Nevertheless, they were surprisingly moreish, and I quite enjoyed them, especially when dunked into the Comeback sauce or BBQ sauce. The cheesy waffle fries had a generous amount of cheese sauce on them (molten plastic goo), but that’s not really my thing so I didn’t try them.
The chicken sandwiches (£6.50 each) are on the small side, each made with two buttermilk fried chicken tenders nicely squashed into a potato roll. The Buffalo sandwich comes with lettuce, tomatoes and blue cheese sauce, which was absolutely potent – too unnatural and strong a flavour for me. The Nashville sandwich comes with lettuce and pickles, and I was told it was decent.
The chicken tenders with garlic parmesan sauce (£5.50 for three strips) are buttermilk fried chicken strips. They seemed to have a seasoned, crumbed coating rather than a battered one, which I preferred to the grease-absorbing specimens you get from other chicken shops. The tenders were chunky and a decent serving, even though there’s only three of them. I found them a touch dry, but liked them dipped in the Comeback sauce. The garlic parmesan sauce was fine but not quite punchy enough for me.
We didn’t try the wings on this occasion but may go back.
Atmosphere and service
The place itself is small and cosy, with a laid-back bar feel. It’s designed to be more of a takeaway, quick-dining place rather than a place where you linger, but I would quite happily eat there alone or in company. The open kitchen was reassuringly clean and visible; the service was friendly and efficiently, and they did a great job packing up my order into a tidy, well-stocked bag with all of my order as requested.
Overall verdict of the Famous Flames
As this place is in my locale, I would probably go again and try the wings and possibly the tenders. However, their burgers were not the best I’ve had, so if that’s what I’m after, I would probably head to a nearby old favourite, Band of Burgers.