Firebird Hope, Hatch, Oxford Rd, Manchester, M1 7ED – Visit Now
The team behind Firebird Hope certainly aren’t modest. I head to their street food stall at Hatch on a wet Thursday afternoon, lured in by the promise of “the best chicken and vegan chicken fried sandwich in Manchester”. A bold claim, that as an ever-ballooning fan of fried chicken in all its forms, I’m determined to investigate.
The menu offers just two items, the aforementioned chicken sandwich and its morally superior cousin, the vegan chicken sandwich. I start with the chicken sandwich. It’s fantastic. The meat itself is exceptional, a gloriously salty free-range thigh meat. But the coating is where the real pleasure lies – it’s a thick crunchy layer, a complex combination of herbs and seasoning that puts the Colonel’s measly ‘11 herbs and spices’ to shame. This is placed on a simple well-made bun, one that tears apart like high-end homemade bread – several steps above the foamy, semi-plastic burger bun found at mainstream takeaway chains.
A complex combination of herbs and seasoning that puts the Colonel’s measly ‘11 herbs and spices’ to shame
Not content with just the one secret ingredient, the sauce drizzled across the chicken is another gem. This unassuming orange dressing is the key ingredient for me. So much more interesting and moreish than plain old ketchup, it’s a kind of levelled-up thousand island dressing that mushes together wonderfully with the chicken, the bread, the crunchy shredded lettuce, and last but not least, the little slices of tart vinegary pickle.
Next up, the vegan chicken sandwich. As someone who’s very much not a vegan, and tries his best not roll an eye at every latest greatest fly-by-night vegan diner to sprout up across the North (one every 6 hours, by my reckoning), I wasn’t expecting much. And of course I was completely, utterly wrong.
Employing the same sauce and bun as Firebird Hope’s standard chicken burger, it was already streets ahead of every other burger in town, but the patty itself was something truly special. And no, it’s not a case of that hoary old backhanded compliment, ‘it tasted like meat’. This vegan burger isn’t trying to mimic the flavour of chicken, it’s very much its own thing, and it’s superb in its own right.
The majority of the other vegan restaurants in the city need to up their game
The texture is a splendid mixture of firm and moist, coated with that God-tier seasoning, with the so-called ‘meat’ full of umami flavours and countless secretive ingredients. At one point, I declared it to be even better than the chicken burger, though I may have been momentarily drunk off the special sauce. It hasn’t lured me away from eating flesh, but it has made me realise that the majority of the other vegan restaurants in the city need to up their game. No excuses.
So yes, not only do they make the best chicken sandwich in Manchester, they also make the best vegan dish in Manchester – on a par with Bundobust, another diner with its origins in the world of street food. Firebird Hope are based at Hatch for the time being, but who knows for how long? With food this good they’re a dead cert to move on to something more permanent.