The Romfood Review: Redundant party organiser makes chicken nuggets to rave about
- Credit: Adriana Elgueta
The Romfood Review, the Recorder’s food column is trying out the latest and tastiest eats from across the borough.
During these testing times, with hospitality shut during three long lockdowns, restaurants have suffered the most and in a bid to support our local and independent eateries, here we will be championing their efforts and showcasing their skills and innovation.
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Reis Esiroglu, 27, used to organise dance music nights at well-known clubs and festivals, such as Studio 338 in south east London and We Are FSTVL held in Upminster.
Coming from a foodie family - he is the son of the owners of Turkish Kusadasi Taverna in Rainham - he had long fancied the idea of getting involved in festival food trucks and making something new and exciting in the industry.
On losing his job, he focused his energy in starting up Serious Nugs, "the first food pop-up dedicated to The Nugget" - chicken nuggets, made from scratch.
Many tried and tested batter recipes later, perfecting the crispy nugget and splashing oil around his mother's kitchen, he found residence at The Rising Sun pub, Hornchurch, where the owner offered him the kitchen space as it was going unused during lockdown - and where we were invited to sample the Nugs (Covid measures considered).
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So why chicken nuggets? Reis explains: "It just clicked one day. People have this sort of infatuation with nuggets - it's weird. So we decided to take that to the next level and make them really good."
Now, Serious Nugs are selling out every weekend, smashing 300 orders on Valentine's weekend. Today, he's armed a team of 10 - a lot them former DJs and and others redundant from the music industry - onto the nugget production line.
But has Reis traded in his raving glo-paint for the deep fryer forever?
"Don't get me wrong it's still a party in there. We've got the music blaring and we're jumping around the place, but yeah it's weird, I've just got all my colleagues shelling out nuggets all weekend.
"For now we want to stay making nuggets and grow the business! Maybe combine the music and nuggets through a nugget brunch? Who knows."
He tells us that he has plans in the works to secure a kitchen either in Shoreditch or in Chelmsford - still to be confirmed. But watch this space.
Presented what looked like our body weight in nuggets (although we surprised ourselves with how many nuggets one can consume in one sitting), we tried the four-way Tasting Platter, which had a portion of every flavour nugget, two versions of curly fry, mac and cheese and coleslaw.
We also had a Kinder Bueno milkshake and a Biscoff milkshake to wash it down. (Yes, we know – the New Year new diet has gone right out of the window, not to mention Veganuary, we dread to think how many chickens went into our nugget banquet).
Neither me nor my flatmate are particularly milkshake fans, but these were so delicious they were glugged down in a moment. The milkshakes were one of Jade’s – a new recruit of Reis - ideas, and he reports that they’ve gone down a treat (literally).
She might live to regret her innovation, though, as he says that the poor girl has been practically chained to the blender ever since churning them out. So what makes them so good?
We reckon it's the respect for keeping things lightly-seasoned and fresh-tasting, that actually characterises everything coming out of Reis’s kitchen. The shakes are gently flavoured, neither too sweet nor intense.
Likewise, all the sauces, made from scratch and of which there is a huge selection, from blue cheese to curry, don’t overpower. My favourite was the truffle dip which I loved for that reason - no overwhelming tang of mushrooms as truffle-flavoured things too often are.
And gently went it, too, with the coleslaw, which was another unsuspecting winner. I don't usually go for coleslaw (the creamy savoury carrot mixture doesn't sit well with me,) but this one we dubbed the "palate cleanser" as it was light and fresh-tasting. It made for the perfect inter-nug break to reset our taste buds.
And this brings us to the pièce de résistance, the plates of Nugs which did pack a punch of flavour.
Nugs in the mix included a deep-friend halloumi Nug, "Cheesy Does It," a katsu curry Nug, "Katsu If You Can," "Buffalo Soldier," Buffalo-wing inspired, "Just Jerkin'", "Living of the Veg," the vegan option and the "O.G Nug" - the original.
The Korean-inspired Nug, "Korean Tings," was the winner for my flatmate. Sweet, spicy and summarised in one phrase: "Like a tiny but exciting takeaway in one bite".
For me, the O.G Nug was a clear winner, mainly because I liked having the option to dip it into a different sauce with every Nug, as the sauces were a party in themselves. That, and also because sauce-less, you can taste the crispiness in the clearest way.
The least exciting Nug for us both was the vegan option, mainly because we're not keen on meat substitutes but Reis promises us that he's working on a cauliflower Nug that he hopes will better bring out the best of vegan.
So how does Reis achieve the magnificence of a nugget being so crispy yet not greasy?
"Many different attempts!" he says. "But it's the panko breadcrumbs that make it so crispy and we prep things about three times a week so that it all stays super fresh."
So whether you're counting down the days to get back into The Rising Sun, and are envisioning the perfect snack to complement your pint, or whether you're still looking for something to brighten up those lockdown Friday nights, Serious Nugs is fantastic way to choose a safe, comforting takeaway option but be adventurous and try something new with all the eclectic flavours at the same time.
We've given you the lowdown now, so you know to expect a palate-cleansing slaw and the crispiest Nugs since sliced bread (crumbs).