Everyone working in the city knows Assenheim’s. Even if you don’t know it by its name, you’d know it by “that grilled chicken place”. Even if you are thinking “… what grilled chicken place…?”, you’d know it by its smell.
For at least 6 hours a day, if you walk anywhere near the 100m radius of Copthall Avenue, you would be greeted with an insanely strong and tasty chargrilled chicken smell. It smells like street food full of spices and big flavours from South America. Assenheim’s serves sandwiches as well as hot food like pasta and lasagne, but it’s most famous for its Marinated Chicken with special green sauce and massive portions. I’ve only ever had their marinated chicken here, but according to some friends at work, they serve big messy oily breakfast too that are perfect cures to a hangover. By the way, did I mention that there’s always a queue here? The sunnier and the later in the week, the longer the queue.
I still remember my first visit. It was daunting, in fact, very daunting for 3 reasons:
1. There is not obvious menu or instructions for ordering the marinated chicken and you are expected to know the answer to the questions that they ask, even though you are clueless
2. You are referred to as a number, 1 to 10. Number 5? Yes, hey you, yes, you, number 5.
3. There are two queues. What? Wait. Where do I order? Can I pay? Where? How? What?
The queue moves fast, I’m most impressed with the workflow process that they’ve designed. Trust me, their business process is a lot more efficient than many that you will find in any offices within the square mile. Perhaps we should all ask them to act as Business Process Improvement Consultants and come work in our offices when they are done with frying chicken.
So, this is what happens:
1. Stand in the queue for 10min
2. Reach the ordering counter and be prepared to be greeted with a number between 1 to 10. Remember your number
3. Answer the question, what do you want? (Chicken?) Note: “marinated chicken” is the wrong answer. Everyone in the queue is waiting for this. Your answer should consist of up to 2 options selected from Rice, Salad and/or Vegetables. For example, rice and salad
4. 10 boxes will be lined up on the kitchen counter, filled with your answer to Q3
5. 10 portions of meat (2 mega big pieces of boneless chicken thigh) is transferred from the hot grill behind, chopped up, delivered to your box
6. When you number is called, answer Yes or No. (What?) oh, did you not hear? Tabasco. Do u want it? Yes or No?
7. Your number will be called again, answer Yes or No. (What now?) green sauce, want it or not? (What green sauce?) GREEN SAUCE, FOCUS AND LOOK! They don’t tell you what it is. I think it’s a homemade sauce similar to chimichurri sauce, which is made from parsley, oregano, garlic, onion, vinegar, lime and oil. And I always go for “extra green sauce please”
8. Your boxes are being packed up. (You reach out to hand over the cash, yet your lunch disappears from behind the counter and Mr Chicken Chopper who just served you have no interest in your money)
9. Follow the fellow 9 other queuers, 10 of you shift to the left to the second queue, whilst Mr Chicken Chopper starts repeating steps 3-8.
10. Pay in the second queue by the number your were given. Now you have your food.
So, this is the deal. Rice and salad, tasbaco, extra green sauce. It’s hard to see what’s actually in the box. But I can tell you, that chicken is big. It’s moist. It’s cooked just right. That green sauce, I like. That tasbaco to give an extra kick, nice. There is nothing clean or neat about this food. It’s big, bold, messy, in your face, but it’s good for a Friday in replacement of fish and chips. The catch – this is may not be suitable for the faint hearted or those with delicate digestive systems. There’s been numerous accounts that I have witnessed of people who suffered from afternoon naps, dozing off in meetings, indigestion, and stomach aches.
I used to be able to visit every Friday, which turned into every month, then every quarter, then once a year. Don’t get me wrong, the food is big and tasty. I guess I’ve just started having smaller lunches to avoid falling asleep in my afternoons. I guess it’s an age thing. I guess it’s a health consciousness thing. I guess I’ve just been smelling that grilled chicken on a daily basis for too long that it does get the point of being too much.
Damage to pocket: £7.00
Number of accumulated visits: 10+
Date of visit: Since 2012
Will we return? Yes, but only when I can handle a big lunch