The surprise is not that someone is finally trying to launch a healthier alternative, but that it has taken so long – though pop-up healthy fast food vans have been trialled in London before, a new outlet, Chicken Town, is the first bricks-and-mortar shop to take on the challenge.
It will open in Tottenham, north London, in September, ready for the new school year. According to the not-for-profit community organisation behind the project, Create, there are 30 fast-food outlets within a mile of the site, so it will have to work hard for its business. Importantly, prices will be on a par with competitors, with a junior special priced at just £2, subsidised by the more grown-up trade the team hope to attract in the evenings.
What is on offer, however, is very different: the chicken, for example, will be free-range, and steamed before frying to cut down its time in the oil, meaning it will have only 30% of the fat and calories of the ordinary high-street variety.
Interestingly, product developer William Leigh, who founded upmarket chicken joint Wishbone before selling it on to the Meatailer group last year, tells me that this is a fairly common cooking method. Spicy buffalo wings are traditionally pre-steamed to speed up delivery times at busy bars, while Korean-American chef David Chang of the achingly hip Momofuku empire argues that the process amplifies the natural flavour of his famous fried chicken (not something, perhaps, that might be desirable at your average chicken cottage).
Back in Tottenham, it is not just the meat that will be healthier. The fries will be made from sweet potatoes, which contain more fibre and vitamins – and fewer calories – than the ordinary white variety, and the menu, which is being developed by an executive chef with Michelin-starred experience, will also feature alternative sides such as greens, coleslaw and roasted corn.