‘I went to Morley’s to see if it was still the best chicken shop in South London’

“Iya bossman, yeah, y’alright?” I hear a customer reel as I step into Morley’s on Stockwell Road. It’s an all too familiar phrase to any Londoner – it’s practically impossible to enter any chicken shop without it.

Chicken shops are a core part of what makes up London. Fried chicken may have started off in the American south, and be sold in little takeaways all over the country, but in my opinion chicken shops are a London institution. While South London is studded with them – packed with bossmen slinging out boxes of hot crispy chicken – one shop reigns supreme: Morley’s, of course.

Chicken shops like Morley’s are a culture in London, particularly in South London where the chain holds most of its branches. They’re a stop off for high schoolers on the way home, a quick lunch as you pass it by the tube and in my opinion, a perfect hangover cure. And a year on since one of our reporters called it the ‘best fried chicken in London’, I decided it was time to see if that was still true by visiting Morley’s for lunch myself.

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£6.60 for a proper Morley’s feast

After the customer spun off a confident order that almost sounded like he’d learnt it from a script, I was up. And much to the boss’ surprise, I wasn’t prepared with an order. Instead, I asked him what was most popular.

“Most popular? Well the chicken burger is. So’s the chicken wings. Chicken,” he laughed, “chicken’s popular.” And this didn’t come as a surprise to me, fried chicken is after all, amazing.

So obviously, I just ordered everything – how else would I know how great Morley’s really is? He set me up with a box meal compromising of a chicken fillet burger, three hot wings, one piece of chicken, chips and a drink. All for the sweet, sweet, price of just £6.60; another perfect part of chicken shops is the guaranteed low price.

Swiftly after handing over my cash, I was given a paper bag of food and said goodbye to the boss as I walked home through South London, cradling my hot bag of chicken with its distinct fumes wafting its way through the air. Every Londoner knows that warm fresh fried chicken scent. It’s basically like an air freshener on some streets.

When I returned home, I opened up the bag to find a little carboard box packed with chips lying on top of a huge piece of chicken and crispy wings. Then in its own little yellow container, a seeded bun sandwiching a big fillet of chicken, slathered in mayo on both sides. Banging.

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A crunchy, flaky, meaty wing

A sturdy yet soft bun, it’s spongy and sticks onto the slab of chicken with mayo glue. The sauce is smooth and plain – it’s not an over powering pungent sauce that takes away from the meat, but instead compliments it with a creamy, light tanginess.

The chicken itself is juicy and tender at the perfect size to give a good meat to bun ratio, because there’s nothing worse than a chicken shop burger that’s more bread than protein. I enjoyed this: sure, it wasn’t anything special but embodies the classic simple flavours to create a filling and familiar sandwich.

Much more of a hunk of meat is the chicken piece; it’s a real two-hander. As I rip into the brick with my teeth, I hear the juicy squelch after my bite as the juices ooze and batter tears away from the chicken – like the sound of my thighs ripping from a plastic chair in the summer.

The batter is gloriously crispy with golden crunches in its creases. Totally moist and succulent, it’s a beautiful piece of chicken that boldly holds that peppery, herby, spiced balanced fried chicken flavour. Delicious.

Not as hot as I expected, the completely crunchy wings are more of a slow burner with a slightly smoked, burnt, chilli taste. Potentially a burn on Morley’s, I’d have to say I prefer the fieriness of a KFC Zinger Wing. But bolstering up the disappointing flavour, these wings have a respectable hefty amount of meat on the bones, no scraping around here.

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Complimenting it all, the chips are gorgeously crisp and equally fluffy, having that moreish oily, deep-fried taste without the oiliness in my hands. They’re the kind of chips that my hand goes into auto-mode with; I just keep reaching for more until I’m hit with the heart-breaking realisation that I’ve scoffed them all.

While my Morley’s meal was undeniably delicious and a real guilty-pleasure, I can’t say that it totally blew me away, there isn’t anything about it that stands out enough to call it the best.

If I was to say I’ve been to a better London chicken shop, it would probably still be an impossible choice. It comes down more to the experience. Probably a hungover one, getting that friendly greeting like a warm hug from my local boss, sitting in the window with my zombie-like pals as we tear into pieces savagely, covered in chilli sauce and shame.

Sure, the flavours are tasty, the price is perfect and the portions are generous, but I think Morley’s stands as more of a tribute than a winner. As such a famous franchise, it stands in honour of the community of bossmen that sits below them. The beloved culture of London chicken shops is a lifestyle, not a competition.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, pub or bar in London that you think we should know about? If so, please email [email protected] or [email protected]

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