“The Daily Mail readers lost their minds yesterday – they've blamed us for the country's obesity epidemic,” says Jim Thomlinson, one half of Fry Hard, the nation's first pop-up deep-fat fryers who say they 're willing to cook up anything in oil. Well, their “Diabetic Mountain” - battered pancakes, Tunnocks Teacakes, Cadbury's Creme eggs and Mars bars – certainly won't be making it on to any Weight Watchers diet plans anytime soon. But who cares? It's FRIED CHOCOLATE.
I've joined head chef Jim, and his partner, Emma Thomas (AKA Miss Cakehead) in their Columbia Road kitchen for a deep-frying session that will test the stomachs of even the most ardent fat guzzlers. Emma says they're actually living for all the haterz comments: “People said: “Chef? That man looks like a long-distance trucker” and our favourite, “These two are like kids in a playground once their parents have turned their backs” We're like, cool, we'll take that! Jim's gonna do a Jimmy Kimmel take-off and read out all the worst comments on camera."
The healthnut-baiting couple are taking over a place at the Boxpark in Shoreditch from today and over the Easter weekend (Thursday 2nd – Sunday 5th) they''ll be battering up 100 items suggested by the nation, then plunging it into boiling hot oil to create the mother of all decadent dishes.
The menu includes Babybels, Black pudding, Cherry Bakewells, Mars bars, Wagon Wheels, Cheese Strings...and the list goes on. But we're going to give a Creme Egg and a slice of chocolate fudge cake a good battering today. You know, just to make sure they're OK for everyone else to eat.
Jim explained the concept: "Emma's been wanting do something for ages with the name Fry Hard as she's a massive Die Hard fan, so the name actually came first, then we worked out. Then Boxpark approached us for a free week and we were like we'll do it, but it has to be the Easter week. We thought it would fit really well for Easter as there's a lot of chocolate around and because Die Hard is essentially a Christmas movie, we wanted to do this at Easter." Hence the mammoth stockpile of chocolates planned for the deep-fat fryer.
Jim switches on the fryer and gets the beer-based batter ready. Next, we unwrap the Cadbury's Creme egg and Jim dusts it in flour, dips it into the batter and plunges it into the oil. It splatters up slightly, then puffs up and begins to turn golden. The batter begins to slip off a little, so after a couple of minutes when Jim scoops up the egg, it sort of looks like a poached egg, but battered. We cut into it and try it. It's super-sweet - cloyingly, like that fondant centre always is - but the batter adds a nice bit of crunch to it, so each mouthful isn't just pure sugar (or doesn't feel like that, anyway). Creme eggs: definitely improved by deep frying.
Next up, is a fat wedge of chocolate cake. I begin to worry for Jim. “Do you crave veggies after a frying session? How do you balance eating all this fried food?” I ask him. “I don't,” he replies, sticking the battered chocolate cake into the fryer. He's certainly devoted to the cause. Watching the food bubble away in the oil is quite therapeutic actually, as I zone out for a moment, transfixed on the golden liquid's movement. Wait - have I been hypnotised by the fryer? Will I never want to eat a salad again?
We cut in to the cake - it oozes slightly-melted buttercream filling, the cake is warmed by the oil and the batter, well, that's the icing on the cake. Or, the batter on the icing of the cake. I go back for seconds. I don't think I want to eat anything that hasn't been battered again. Oh God, is this how Elvis started?
Fry Hard is open at the Boxpark Thurs 2nd 11am-9pm, Fri 11am-7pm, Sat 11am-7pm and Sun 11am-7pm. Items cost from £1 each. More details here.