(Bloomberg) -- The UK’s fried chicken fixation is a longstanding one.

The no nonsense London chain Morley’s may have gone viral thanks to its sweet-spicy sauce collaborations with Heinz, but its first location opened in 1985. Amelia Dimoldenberg’s web series Chicken Shop Date dominates conversation; still the namesake chain where she hosts her idiosyncratic celebrity interviews got its start at a music festival in 2010. 

Foreign companies have spotted the opportunity. Miami-based Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen Inc launched in Britain in November 2021: Its inaugural site in Stratford quickly became the chain’s highest grossing store worldwide. Filipino chicken cult Jollibee Foods Corp. opened on Leicester Square that same year. Meanwhile, KFC Corp. has been frying birds in the UK since 1965. 

Now, savvy operators in London are taking the country’s love of fried chicken and giving it an unexpected accompaniment: Champagne.

The trend blew up in New York earlier this year with the opening of Coqodaq, the Korean fried chicken hall that reportedly boasts the country’s largest collection of Champagne, with around 400 listings curated by sommelier Victoria James. The David Rockwell-designed space has been a breakout hit, with long lines every night. 

London spots, new and not, are now breaking out the flutes. There’s a reason it’s happening, says Sandia Chang, co-founder of Bubbledogs, the place that got Londoners drinking Champagne with over-the-top hot dogs before closing because of the pandemic. “I definitely see more people drinking Champagne away from occasions and ... just having it as an everyday aperitif or as a wine with their meals.” She also calls out the increased availability of accessible, non marquee bottles. 

Chang also believes the appeal of a high-low pairing is helping to make Champagne and fried chicken inescapable this year. Plus it works well with the greasy, crunchy dish. “Its lovely fresh acidity pairs so well with salty and fatty foods,” she says.

Chang has revived Bubbledogs for this summer’s popup at 45 Park Lane Hotel, and there’s brisk business for the fried chicken wings  to go with the sparkling-only list of almost 50 options. 

One of the city’s newer options comes from Bebe Bob, whose older sibling Bob Bob Ricard is renowned for its “Press for Champagne” buttons at every booth. At Bebe Bob, notably juicy nuggets in a crunchy crust are available at lunch, with the option of a dozen Champagnes. They’ve been an instant best seller, but founder Leonid Shutov says they couldn’t meet demand at dinner because there’s a limited quantity of the Landes chicken they source. “We simply would not be able to get enough of this very special bird to offer these nuggets through the day,” he says.

On the new menu at the just-opened-for-the-season Claridge’s Terrace at the famed hotel, Champagne is front and center. Ruinart Blanc de Blanc and Rose  is available by the glass and bottle (£30 ($38) and £220 respectively). The new spicy fried chicken, marinated in jalapeno buttermilk with a crisp crust flavored with plenty of paprika and mushroom powder, is a suggested pairing.

At Dovetale, Tom Seller’s handsome restaurant in the 1 Hotel Mayfair, there’s a brand new Saturday brunch menu; front and center is fried chicken with waffles and hot butter sauce.  The drink to have with the dish, which is inspired by the supremely crunchy American KFC brand, is Champagne, says Wine Director Matt Espersen: “Sparkling wine is a must-have for brunch.”

The options for sparkling wine pairings for fried chicken are almost impossibly extensive at the wine-focused pub the White Horse  in Mayfair.  The smoked paprika dusted golden chicken can be paired with any of the 500-strong sparkling wine selections from Hedonism Wines which operates the pub. The store is a half a mile away, so bottles arrive at the restaurant in around 10 minutes. 

And in North London, the dynamic team at Papi, chef Matthew Scott and wine director Charlie Carr are using the pairing to serve a special meal on Tuesdays as part of a monthlong stint. The theme is pet nat (naturally bubbly wine) and koji fried chicken with a couple options of Champagne thrown in, too. 

In fact, Brits are doing a good job of drinking Champagne, with or without fried chicken, says James Simpson, managing director of Pol Roger Ltd. and chairman of UK Champagne Shippers Association. Last year, 25.5 million bottles of Champagne were imported to the UK, out of a total export of 172 million bottles from France. In fact, the UK is only slightly behind the US in terms of consumption of the French sparkling wine — America went through a little over 26.9 million bottles — despite having only about one-fifth the number of residents. “Considering the population difference, the UK is doing a bloody good job of drinking Champagne,” says Simpson.

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.