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What it's like to eat at zero hygiene rated Fantastic Chicken in Maidstone

Fantastic Chicken in Maidstone received the lowest possible rating from after a council inspection and was given eight weeks to make "urgent improvements".

So, with that knowledge fresh in his mind and in need of a fast food fix reporter Sean McPolin went along to check out their food.

Fantastic Chicken in Sandling Road, Maidstone, was given a zero rating for hygiene by the Food Standards Agency
Fantastic Chicken in Sandling Road, Maidstone, was given a zero rating for hygiene by the Food Standards Agency

After realising the chicken shop was the worst rated restaurant in the whole town expectations weren't high and I found myself asking "is this worth it?".

Either way, hunger motivated me to trudge down to Sandling Road - a street which is also home to two Chinese restaurants, an Indian and a chip shop - to get my dinner.

Despite being given a zero rating for hygiene Fantastic Chicken was surprisingly nice
Despite being given a zero rating for hygiene Fantastic Chicken was surprisingly nice

Things didn't get off to a good start with the outside of Fantastic Chicken one of the least appealing I've seen - it is best described as 'sweaty'.

When I got inside it was like a shoebox with two JustEat drivers waiting to be called upon, boxes on the floor, bags on the side and extension cables scattered everywhere.

The store was generally clean looking with no off-putting smells or marks and service was quick.

A short 10-minute wait and £12 later and I was on my way home with a chicken burger meal, two pieces of chicken, hot wings and chips.

Upon arrival the food was still hot, smelt good and didn't fill me with dread.

The floors were a bit messy with wires laying around the place
The floors were a bit messy with wires laying around the place

As I tucked in to the burger I was pleasantly surprised with what came back at me. Despite a ton of salad and mayo which could have been removed and made a decent portion of coleslaw,the burger was juicy and flavoursome.

One or two bites were slightly hard but it was nothing catastrophic.

The chips were crispy and fresh and the complete opposite of what I expected from a shop with a zero-star rating.

After a slight stomach ache due (I hope) to scoffing my chips and burger and I moved onto the chicken pieces. If anything was to be my downfall these would be it.

I tentatively pulled apart the chicken hoping I wouldn't find any pink meat and luckily I didn't.

I tucked into the chicken which was, much like the burger, juicy, tender and cooked to near perfection. As were the hot wings, which were crispy and not so spicy I needed to sink a pint of milk, but spicy enough to be enjoyable.

Fantastic Chicken in Sandling Road, Maidstone, looked "sweaty" from the outside
Fantastic Chicken in Sandling Road, Maidstone, looked "sweaty" from the outside

Overall, Fantastic Chicken was in fact a fantastic tasting meal at a great price and exceeded my, admittedly low, expectations.

If I was ever going to recommend a zero-rated restaurant, this would be it. Mainly because it's the only one in Maidstone I know.

Eight weeks ago when the Food Standards Agency visited it said the cleanliness and condition of the building also needed improvement while there was an "urgent need" to ensure that checks were in place to guarantee that the food sold was safe to eat and that staff understood food safety.

A spokesman for Maidstone council said: “As part of a food and property routine inspection, Maidstone environmental health officers visited Fantastic Chicken in Sandling Road on November 20.

"Following the visit, the proprietor was given eight weeks to make the necessary improvements.

"Officers are due to revisit shortly and if the legal contraventions are still outstanding consideration may be given to formal action.”

How we rated it

Decor: The windows were dirty and if ever a restaurant could look sweaty, this was it. Things didn't improve inside in the cramped shoebox of a service counter with the menu practically on the ceiling and requiring you to arch your neck. 1/5

Price: The best part of the venture. With eyes bigger than my belly £12 worth of food could easily have fed two people. It was nice to be reminded you don't have to fork out £15 on Deliveroo or UberEats for a burger and chips when your local chicken shop down the road does it for half the price. 4/5

Food: It's what you expect from a chicken shop. A solid burger and chips with some well cooked onion rings and hot wings. I was tempted to rate it higher solely on the fact I expected to feel ill the next day but didn't. 3/5

Staff: Very friendly, and gets bonus points for asking delivery drivers to wait outside the cramped shop and adhere to social distancing. Wore a mask, hair net, gloves and apron and looks to have taken the advice on board from the food agency. 5/5

Read more: All the latest news from Maidstone

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