Really Happy Chicken review for Sussex Visitor

Delicious soul food that just happens to be vegan, from a team on a mission to making vegan and sustainable living more accessible to the masses for the good of the planet and all its beings

If someone had asked me a few years ago if I could ever give up meat and meat products altogether and become completely vegan, I would have scoffed at them. I could simply not imagine giving up steaks and dirty burgers, to only replace them with weird flavourless soya patties. More recently with advancements in tasty meat substitutes available, I have made a conscious effort to reduce the amount of animal products I consume; I rarely have meat at home and have given up dairy (almost) entirely. I have however struggled to find a suitable replacement for chicken as all the alternatives I have tried have suffered from lack of any real flavour and have had weird spongey textures that is nothing like what it was trying to mimic. Last week I spotted people chowing down on some delicious looking burgers through the window of “Really Happy Chicken,” Brighton’s hottest new totally vegan fried chicken eatery. Judging by the expressions of the diners it isn’t just the chickens that are happy this place exists. So, my love of dirty burgers and curiousness as to whether someone had finally created a decent planet conscious KFC alternative had me dragging my companion through the door to take our seats and order.

The restaurant itself is well lit, pristinely clean with a mixture of marble and wooden tables scattered about the place. The staff are super-friendly, welcoming and when they found out it was our first visit, were happy to take us through the menu and chat to us about their food. Our waiter explains they have developed a tasty chicken alternative using seitan, a wheat protein made to look, taste and feel like the real deal, and perfected a delicious southern fried coating too. The menu is much more impressive than your average chicken shop, with a nice range of innovative burgers, “wings” and sides to choose from, all reasonably priced. We decide to give them a thorough taste test and massively over-order, knowing full well we will be taking some home with us when we are done. As well as picking a burger each we order chips, sweet potato chips, a side of buffalo wings, and some mac carbonara to share, with a couple of Los Bros Kombucha to wash it all down.

It did not take long for our food to arrive and for us to start chomping on our burgers which were both truly wonderful. My “Really Big,” crispy seitan fillet topped with hash brown, bacon, lettuce and cheese, which I selected due to its simplicity, wanting to get an unmasked taste of the seitan and coating, was really lovely and as filling as it sounds, the seitan was as close to mimicking chicken than anything I have had previously with a very meaty, fibrous texture that tasted great. The southern fried coating was incredible, not greasy in the slightest and tasted far superior to anything the colonel has ever produced. My companion plumped for their current special, the Really PB and J burger, with homemade vegan bacon jam, satay sauce, crispy bacon and gherkins, which he said really hit the spot with some really exciting bold flavours that combined exceptionally well to make a very tasty burger indeed! Both types of fries were crispy and flavoursome. They tasted great dunked in garlic mayo and their signature happy sauce which we had ordered to accompany.

We were really impressed with the mac carbonara, a vegan mac n cheese made from cashews that had a really satisfying thick gloopy texture and a wonderful ever-so slightly tangy flavour, with crispy bacon bits made from kidney beans that tasted just like the real thing. Even though they were super tasty, we only managed to finish a buffalo wing each before admitting defeat. Succulent meaty strips in southern fried coating drizzled in homemade buffalo sauce that packed a punch without being overpoweringly spicy.

We did not have much left over when we were finally too full to take another bite, but what we did leave was packed in in bio-degradable packaging for us to take home. Really Happy Chicken is run by a team of ambitious, planet-obsessed individuals “on a mission to making vegan and sustainable living more accessible to the masses for the good of the planet and all its beings,” and more importantly have absolutely nailed it when it comes to delicious satisfying dirty burgers and sides that are cruelty free and much more healthy than carnivorous alternatives. I wholeheartedly encourage vegans and non-vegans alike to give them a try as I am sure I will be returning time and time again.

Tony Shattell

Really Happy Chicken: Available on Uber Eats, Just Eat and Deliveroo.

31 Preston St, Brighton BN1 2HP. www.reallyhappychicken.com