Its backers include Spencer Matthews, a TV personality and former star of “Made In Chelsea”; Grace Beverley, founder of sustainable activewear startup TALA; and Clive Sharpe, the former chairman of UK-based veggie alternative company Quorn.
But the chain hit the headlines after trade publication Propel reported that another big name become an investor: former McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook. Clean Kitchen Club confirmed to Insider that he had invested in the company. Easterbrook is credited with reviving McDonald’s fortunes through job cuts and the introduction of technology such as touchscreens for ordering. He left the role after the company accused him of misleading it about the nature of his relationships with several employees.
A spokesperson told Insider that Clean Kitchen Club plans to expand significantly by opening another five sites this year, grow its catering business, which has already been used by Amazon, Dior, and Sky Studios, and start selling ready meals and grab-and-go items in supermarkets. We checked out its branch in the tourist hotspot of Notting Hill to see what had enticed such big names to invest in it.
The restaurant didn’t feel like a fast-food joint at all. The order counter had an açai bowl toppings station and a coffee machine in the background.
The decor was cool, calming, and natural, with none of the bright colors associated with other fast-food chains. The color scheme was green and white with some wooden furnishings.
There were even plants on the tables – something we’ve never seen before in a quick-service restaurant. It all seemed very Instagrammable – little surprise, perhaps, given that both founders have thousands of Instagram followers.
There was only space for a few customers at any one time, suggesting it is designed more for takeout than dining in.
There were also some prepacked sandwiches and salad bowls from a fridge below the checkout, as well as cold drinks. There was no drinks dispenser.
Cupcakes, pain au chocolats, and croissants were displayed in the window. They looked delicious.
According to a pitch deck made by the brand’s founders, more than 80% of their customers are not vegan. Clean Kitchen Club’s suppliers of plant-based meats includes industry leader Beyond Meat, which supplies its burger patties, as well as TiNDLE, which sells raw plant-based chicken that restaurants can then mould into different sizes and shapes.
Though we ordered our food to eat in, it was still served in takeaway packaging. On its website, the company says it uses “the most environmentally friendly materials available on the market.” The spokesperson said that the packaging doesn’t contain plastic and is fully recyclable and biodegradable, and that the cutlery is made from either wood or avocado seed.
Yes, the crockery is fully recyclable and biodegradable. They don’t use plastic; it is either PLA made from plants and biodegradable or aqua cellulose also derived from plants. They use either wooden or avocado seed cutlery. Straws are either paper or bamboo fibre.
They also work with veg ware for their coffee/salad bowl lids. Any ink used is water soluble and all packaging is carbon neutral
All cardboard is FSC regulated, and coatings are made from vegetables.
The burgers came first. Both were served in bright red buns, which we hadn’t expected. This is a Cheat’n Clean Burger, which cost £8.65 ($10.50), compared to just under £4 for a McPlant from McDonald’s. We saved a lot of money though by choosing Clean Kitchen Club’s burger with a £8.50 ($10.27) lunch deal that included the burger, fries, and a cold drink.
We ordered a Cheat’n Clean Burger, which had a Beyond Meat patty, vegan smoked cheese, two slices of gherkin, a piece of lettuce, a slice of tomato, and a squirt of “Clean Special Sauce.” The cheese hasn’t melted at all – a common occurrence with vegan cheese – and the patty, which had a rich, smoky flavor, seemed a bit thinner than expected. The sauce tasted good, though we couldn’t tell you what was in it. It just tasted like a good burger sauce.
We also ordered the Truffle Mayo Burger, which comes with a fake chicken patty made by TiNDLE, coupled with truffle mayo and rocket. This cost £9.65 ($11.61), but we got it with fries and a cold drink for £10 ($12.04) under the lunch deal.
The truffle mayo had a decent consistency, but the overall flavor of the burger was a bit basic and it maybe could have included a few more ingredients.
The fries were seasoned with oregano, which made them taste very different to fries from other fast-food joints. They tasted really good. To order alone, the fries would cost £3.55 ($4.29), which seemed reasonable for the great flavor and massive portion size.
We also ordered two bowls – the katsu chicken (£7.95; $9.60) and the mac and cheese (£6.95; $8.39). We got these under a lunch deal, too. Both came to £8.50 ($10.23) with a drink.
We really rated the chicken alternative used in the katsu curry, but the sauce was quite sharp, very thick, and definitely not as sweet as others we’d tried, and the rice was quite bland.
The mac and cheese looked great and the fake bacon bits tasted delicious and were very close to the real deal.
The vegan “chicken” nuggets were probably the highlight. Like McDonald’s, they can be ordered in quantities up to 20. But they were nearly four times as expensive as the real version from McDonald’s, at £5.65 for 6 and £17.95 for 20.
The plant-based nuggets were definitely the highlight, and possibly the best alternative to chicken nuggets we’ve had. They were salty and had a texture almost identical to meat.