REVIEW: UK’s first ever Vegan fried chicken shop

Whether you’re vegan or not, the UK’s first ever vegan fried chicken shop, Temple of Seitan, is guaranteed to get your mouth watering. 

Named as the world’s first ever vegan “chicken shop”, you should expect long queues, the smell of the deep-fryer and to be surrounded by hungry vegetarian/vegans at the Temple of Seitan (also known as the Temple of Hackney). Being the first vegan chicken shop to open in the UK, people are willing to travel hours just to have a bite of some fried seitan.

Located in the urban town of Hackney, it will take a few hours to get there by public transport from Canterbury. They’re open Wednesday-Sunday from 12pm-8pm, but they can close earlier than expected due to selling out of products, so if you’re determined to get some ‘fried chicken; then get there early. They’ve only been open since earlier this year but have already built a clan of loyal customers.

‘Vegan fast food’

I arrived at exactly 12 pm (opening time) on the dot and there was already a queue starting to form from the outside of this vegan fast food shop.

What is seitan?

With veganism becoming more popular than ever, it’s no surprise that we’re becoming more innovative with our meat substitutes. There are tofu and quorn, but no one seems to know much about Seitan. It’s wheat gluten or ‘wheat-meat’, it comes from the protein of wheat. It can be seasoned in many different ways to imitate the flavours of chicken, pork, beef or any other meat product.

The menu

Each item on the menu is 100% vegan, they also offer gluten-free options. The prices are steep for fast food but being the only vegan ‘chicken shop’ around, they can get away with it. The menu comprises of five main meals and four side-orders. I decided that I’d try out their temple burger, 2 piece chicken, mac ‘n’ cheez, coleslaw and fries.

There are only nine items on the menu but that only makes it easier for customers to try each item they have to offer.

2 piece chicken

The two piece chicken came with a tangy mayonnaise on the side.

Overall score: 8/10

Flavour: 10/10

Did it taste like chicken? Yes, it did. But it was extremely salty. The batter used to coat the seitan tasted like any generic fried chicken coating. I could taste garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, pepper and lots of salt. The salty taste came from the seitan itself. It wasn’t unpleasant, it was just overpowering.

After doing some research, it’s been said that the main reason why people avoid seitan is due to its high salt content, so if you’re concerned about consuming too much sodium then avoid over indulging on their fried chicken seitan (but still, go and try some for yourself because it’s worth it).

Texture: 7/10

It’s all about the crispy batter. If you’re a fried chicken lover then you’d know how important it is to get that crunch from the chicken skin. For those who live a meat-free lifestyle but crave that crunch – then this seitan will satisfy those needs. The batter has to be my favourite part of this ‘fried chicken’ because you get that crispy skin from every bite.

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Temple of Seitan’s extra crispy ‘fried chicken’.

The meat itself was the letdown, you could feel it wasn’t real chicken and looked almost pork-like with a brown/grey colour. It had that stringy protein texture that cooked chicken has but it felt tough when chewing it. It felt like an overcooked, spongy piece of pork – it definitely wasn’t tender. Despite this, it was still very satisfying to eat if you haven’t eaten fried chicken in a long time.

It was very greasy. If you’re using your hands to eat this, remember to bring wet wipes because napkins won’t be enough to get the grease off your fingers.

Despite this,  I would definitely order again because of its great crunch and flavours.

Presentation: 10/10

It looks like fried chicken. If someone gave this to me and told me it was actual fried chicken, I’d believe them. It had that golden brown crispy batter and shaped like a tender fried chicken strip.

It was great that it came with a dip of tangy vegan mayonnaise on the side.

Price: 7/10

These two piece chicken strips were being sold at £6, which made it £3 each. That’s expensive for something that’s roughly a bit bigger than KFC‘s chicken strips. But being the world’s first ever vegan “chicken shop”, they have the right to charge a bit more for their fast food items.

Temple burger

The Temple burger is a vegan version of a chicken and bacon burger.

Overall score: 9/10

Flavour: 10/10

The temple burger is seitan that’s in form of a fried chicken breast, vegan bacon, lettuce, gherkins and vegan mayonnaise served in a generic burger bun.

The seitan tasted great, it had a real crunch to it as you’d expect from any fried chicken burger. The vegan bacon tasted like real smoky bacon and I wouldn’t have been able to tell that it wasn’t real pork bacon. The gherkins gave the burger a refreshing tang which complimented the saltiness of the seitan and vegan bacon.

Texture: 9/10

Everything worked well together, it wasn’t too messy to eat so it was assembled well. There’s a good variety of textures, from the soft burger bun, crispy seitan and lettuce with the creaminess of the mayonnaise.

The only thing that could be improved was the bread bun. It was a generic burger bun that you’d find in the Tesco Value range. A way to improve it would be replacing it with a brioche bun to give that gourmet feel.

Presentation: 8/10

It looked like a normal chicken burger you’d get anywhere (it actually reminded me of Burger King’s Chicken Royale). At first glance, it didn’t look anything special but it definitely tasted better than it looked.

Price: 10/10

£6 is definitely a good price for this burger considering it’s really tasty and 100% vegan.

Mac ‘n’ cheez

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The side of mac ‘n’ cheez generously portioned in a tub.

Overall score: 10/10

Flavour: 11/10

This mac ‘n’ cheez deserves to be raved about, it tastes better than a real mac and cheese which contains real dairy cheese. It was very cheesy and decadent.  The dish also had small pieces of vegan bacon scattered around, the saltiness of the bacon worked really well with the creaminess of the ‘cheddar’ sauce.

Overall, it perfected every element of the real mac and cheese dish. The flavours were spot on.

Texture: 10/10

The macaroni was cooked to perfection and coated generously in the creamy cheese sauce. The vegan bacon added a lovely crispy crunch to it along with the greens used to garnish on top.

This is definitely a perfect side to the 2 piece chicken meal as the contrast of crispy and soft textures compliment each other nicely.

Presentation: 10/10

Served in a tub with a generous portion of mac ‘n’ cheez, it’s the sort of meal that looks great on your Instagram. With a healthy topping of white sauce and greens to garnish, it looked like a gourmet version of mac n cheese that you’d find in a high-end restaurant. Cannot fault it.

Price: 9/10

Considering how high the quality of the product is, this mac ‘n’ cheez is worth £5.

Coleslaw

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Vegan coleslaw from Temple of Seitan.

Overall score: 5/10

Flavour: 5/10

The main dressing for this coleslaw tasted like vinegar. That’s all I could taste. That might suit some of other people’s flavour palettes but unfortunately, it did not serve mine. It was overpowering and I could hardly taste the shredded cabbage or carrots. It lacked the creamy component of mayonnaise which would have made it more like a generic coleslaw.

Texture: 9/10

Despite the flavour, it had a great crunch to it. You can tell it’s freshly made, it works as a refreshing side for those who enjoy a crunchy coleslaw with a vinegary taste.

Presentation: 10/10

Served in the same sized tub as their mac ‘n’ cheez, it was a large portion for one person. At first impression, it looked enticing because of the bright colours and creamy dressing.

Price: 8/10

You’d normally pay £3 for a side of coleslaw at any gourmet/high-end food restaurant anyway, so it’s a reasonable price for vegan coleslaw.

Temple fries

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Temple fries are sold at £3 per portion or £2 if bought as a side with any main meal items.

Overall score: 8/10

Flavour: 8/10

They tasted like Burger King fries, very crispy and had a strong ‘oily’ taste to it. Nothing special, but they’re great thin cut fries. Nothing more, nothing less.

In my opinion, the only reason why people would buy fries at a vegan ‘chicken shop’ when there are other great side order alternatives, is that burger and fries are always a good tandem. When I was in the shop, every person who ordered the Temple burger also ordered a side of fries with it.

Texture: 9/10

Crispy on the outside, soft and potatoey on the inside. It was cut just a tad bigger than McDonald fries.

Presentation: 8/10

You can request for sauces to be drizzled on top but I went for plain. They were a nice golden colour and there were enough for two people to share.

Price: 7/10

The same as the coleslaw, you’d normally pay about £3 for fries at any high-end food shop so their pricing for their Temple fries is reasonable.

Overall verdict

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Spent nearly £30 on six items of food at the Temple of Seitan in Hackney, London. But there are no regrets.

The staff at the Temple of Seitan are all lovely, very welcoming and accommodating. You get greeted the moment you walk and it’s a great atmosphere in there. The shop is quite small considering the volume of sales and customers they receive. It’s the same size as any generic kebab shop, but unfortunately, there’s no seating inside. There are a couple of tables and chairs outside which can sit 12 people, so it’s more of a takeaway joint than a sit-down food-stop.

A small warning that you may feel a bit ripped off when you buy a can of their drinks, they’re priced at £1.50 and they’re a tad smaller than the standard 330ml can.

Overall, the Temple of Seitan is a gem for anybody who loves comfort food. You don’t need to be vegan to enjoy the food they offer. Whether you’re living a meat-free lifestyle or not, you need to try this vegan ‘chicken shop’ at least once. The price is fairly expensive, however, for the quality of food they’re offering – it’s worth every penny.

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Claisse Opulencia

Claisse is a second-year journalism student and a solo-travel enthusiast. She’s Unified’s Features Editor and curator for #UnifiedFem. She mostly writes about lifestyle, travel and discussing the topics of feminism.

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