One of Portsmouth’s newest food outlets opened in the city at the tail end of last year so I went to meet Gemma Hammond, the brains behind this crazy little place on a journey to zero waste.
Hints that Gemma has worked in the music industry can be found when you walk into Pollito Loco for your takeout, with signed discs from the likes of Iron Maiden and Faithless on the walls. Seen your hero at a festival, concert or on a footie pitch? It’s likely that Gemma’s made their favourite dish at some point. She made her name as a touring chef for the music industry and has worked at several football stadiums too.
Gemma’s 30 years of experience as a chef led her to see how wasteful the hospitality industry can be and that proper butchery among chefs is becoming a lost art. She created Pollito Loco (meaning Crazy Little Chicken), a sustainable food business, while living in Spain and you can now get your fix here in Portsmouth.
Let’s talk about the chickens first. They come from a free range farm and are portioned by hand in the Pollito Loco kitchen. By using the whole chicken everything on the menu is more affordable, as well as more sustainable. The chicken is coated in a corn and rice flour mix which is gluten free and makes the outside super crispy. Chicken Crisps make use of the skin – they’re a bit like pork scratchings. Nutritious chicken broth is made from the chicken carcass and then it’s used as a base for gravy, meaning as little as possible goes to waste.
Flexibility in the menu is also key to using everything. You can choose any cut of chicken to go with any of the six sauces – there are no strict rules here. The sauces are all made in house from fresh, natural ingredients and are gluten free. Choose from Jah Jah Jamaican Jerk, Piri Piri Peligroso, Harissa Hellraiser, Mumbai Mental, Char Sui Sticky and Yankee Doodle Dandy.
We sampled succulent Chicken Lollipops, flaky Chicken Empanadas, nutty Yuca Fries and sweet Plantain Fritters, with a portion of each sauce. It was absolutely delicious and we vowed to make our next takeaway a Pollito Loco one, so we could try the burgers, tropical salads and new desserts that Gemma said will be coming soon.
And while the dishes major on chicken (as the name would suggest), vegans aren’t forgotten. There’s a new Mushroom Miso Soup on the menu and crispy Plantain Fritters are cooked in a separate fryer to the poultry. The Spanish Pistou will give you a fix of flavoursome Mediterranean veggies and the Yuca Fries pictured above were my favourite dish. All the sauces are vegan and there are plans to add more vegan dishes over the coming months.
Pollito Loco is on a mission to educate more people about zero waste. The packaging is all recyclable and Gemma’s looking to partner with allotments and pig farmers to use up any remaining food waste. The long term goals include getting in apprentices and collaborating with educational establishments (Gemma’s already taught budding chefs in Croydon and Southdowns). She also wants to work with community groups, to create a franchise to get people into employment and to build an urban chicken farm.
Pollito Loco is set to have a food truck sometime in the early summer, so you’ll be able to find more of these delicious dishes out and about. Right now you can collect from their takeaway outlet in Rodney Road – just across from Staggeringly Good (and perfect for a bite after a Pompey match) – or order on Deliveroo and Uber Eats.