I visited the first Tim Hortons restaurant opening in London, UK.
Though I used to live near Canada, I never got the opportunity to try the beloved fast-food chain.
I liked the chicken stack and the iced French vanilla latte, but trying Timbits was my favorite.
Tim Hortons is a popular Canadian staple fast-food chain famously loved by Justin Bieber.
As someone who lived in the Northeast of the US for four years, I’d heard the name Tim Hortons tossed around but never had the chance to indulge in it myself.
I didn’t know much about the fast-food chain other than it’s Canadian and Justin Bieber is a fan. According to CNN, he said he “grew up” eating Tim Hortons after his first collaboration with the brand was announced in November.
In any case, it’s safe to say my experience with Tim Hortons was limited, which is why I jumped at the opportunity to attend a press day for the opening of the chain’s very first London location this week.
The new restaurant, which opens officially on July 1, is in North London.
Tim Hortons was founded in 1964 by its namesake, a renowned hockey player for the national Canadian team, according to the official website. Nearly 60 years later, the chain’s first London restaurant officially opens its doors in Royale Leisure Park, Kendal Avenue, on Friday, July 1, a press representative told Insider.
I was surprised the chain had chosen to open up a location so far away from the city center where it could appeal to a bigger consumer base, including tourists visiting from Canada who might be missing home. It worked out for me because I live relatively close by, but I’m not sure I would’ve been as tempted to go if my home was elsewhere in London.
In any case, Canadians reading this will know Friday also happens to be Canada Day — the country’s national holiday – which probably isn’t a coincidence.
According to the website, the London restaurant is one of 63 Tim Hortons that are either open or nearly open across the UK. Back in Canada, there are actually more Tim Hortons restaurants than McDonald’s restaurants, Business Insider’s Mary Meisenzahl previously reported.
My first impressions of Tim Hortons in London were that it’s sleek and patriotic.
The restaurant, which also doubles as a drive-thru, has four machines at the front where customers will be able to place their orders from opening day.
However, they weren’t available on the press day so I made my way over to the counter to order.
Walking in, my immediate impression was that everything was super sleek and modern, from the exposed beam ceilings to the spotless eating areas. I also quickly noticed the red brick-like wall toward the back, a nod to Canada’s flag color.
I didn’t have to wait long before placing my order at the counter, right next to a display of glistening doughnuts.
I’ve seen some good-looking doughnuts in my time at places like Krispy Kreme but I was still impressed with the sheer variety at the display counter at Tim Hortons.
The price of the regular-sized baked goods varied, with the cheapest priced at £2.19, or around $2.65, and the most expensive at £3.29, around $4. Meanwhile the mini-doughnuts, which I found out are called Timbits, come in an assorted box of 10 for £4.29, or $5.20, a box of 20 for £7.49, or $9, and 50 for £15.99, or $19.30.
Tim Hortons is mostly known as a breakfast destination, but I went for lunch to try an array of sweet and savory items.
My order consisted of a sandwich meal, which came with a Tims crispy chicken stack with a chipotle sauce and a side of lattice fries, a three-piece chicken tenders with garlic aioli and sweet chili side sauces, an iced French vanilla latte, and – of course – a 10-pack of assorted Timbits.
Everything was neatly put into a brown paper bag on a tray, which I took to an empty table before digging right in.
For full disclosure, Tim Hortons did not charge Insider for the meal as it was a press preview.
Sadly, Justin Bieber’s cold brew isn’t available in the UK but I was told the iced French vanilla latte tasted similar.
Justin Bieber’s latest collaboration with Tim Hortons was announced back in May, according to People. Known as the Biebs Brew, it’s a limited offer French vanilla cold brew drink.
Sadly for me, it’s not available here in the UK so instead, a member of staff recommended I try the closest thing possible — the iced French vanilla latte. A medium-sized drink cost £3.89, or $4.70.
I have a sweet tooth so I really enjoyed that element of the coffee, but I think I would’ve been more of a fan of the Bieber’s cold brew because it has less milk.
That said, I quite enjoyed that there wasn’t too much ice in the drink. In fact, there were about five ice cubes visible, which meant it didn’t get watery as everything naturally warmed up.
Then I taste-tested the lattice fries and they were perfectly crisp.
Most times I’ve eaten waffle-shaped fries before, I’ve never found them to be anywhere near as crispy as regular fries. So my expectations were that I’d have the exact same experience with the lattice fries, which came as part of the £8.19, or $9.90, meal combo I got with the sandwich.
Even though I still prefer regular fries, I was pleasantly surprised with what I got. Visually, they had a nice color from the way they were fried and had a good crunch to them.
Next, I tucked into my Tims crispy chicken stack that layered chicken, cheese, lettuce, and a hash brown between a brioche bun.
The spice blend coating the chicken in the sandwich was delicious and blended well with the smoky tomato mayonnaise. Elsewhere, the soft interior of the hash brown added a contrasting texture to the crispiness of the chicken, which I quite enjoyed.
I’m a fan of pickles and vegetables in my burgers as well so I would’ve preferred there to have been some of those. A pickle and a tomato would’ve taken this to the next level for me.
After the sandwich, I moved on to the three-piece chicken tenders that I dipped in garlic aioli and sweet chili sauce.
My favorite thing to get when I eat fast food is chicken nuggets. But Tim Hortons doesn’t sell nuggets, so instead, I chose to try the chicken tenders that come in three sizes: a three-piece for £3.99, or $4.80, and a five-piece for £4.99, or $6.
When I was ordering, I asked the server to recommend some good sauces so I ended up trying the chicken with a garlic aioli and a sweet chili sauce. The tenders had the same spice blend I loved from the sandwich, and the flavor went well with both sauces.
While I enjoyed it, I’m still more of a fan of McDonald’s chicken selects, which I find to be crispier and more flavorful.
Last, but definitely not least, I opened up my Timbits box and the tiny little doughnuts were so cute.
My first impression of opening up my Timbits box was: “Oh my god, they are adorable,” which is basically how I feel about anything and everything in miniature form.
Within a box of 10, which cost £3.99, or $4.80, I got flavors of cinnamon biscuit, apple pie, apple fritter, birthday cake, chocolate glaze, and more.
I’m a Tim Hortons newbie so it was hard to distinguish all of the flavors but I know for sure I enjoyed the chocolate glaze and birthday cake.
I’m new to Tim Hortons, so when all the different mini doughnuts are bundled together it’s hard to tell which one is which visually.
A few I could distinguish were the chocolate glaze and birthday cake Timbits — they both have the internal texture of a fluffy cake and are dipped in a light coating of a doughnut glaze. Each bite was soft and light, and if I hadn’t eaten everything else I easily could’ve made it through the whole box of 10 by myself.
I might now prefer mini doughnuts to regular-sized doughnuts.
What’s so great about Timbits is that you can very realistically try a bunch of different doughnut flavors without getting excessively full or buying a bunch of regular-sized doughnuts you may not be able to finish.
They are light, tasty, and go super well with a coffee so I’m not sure why other fast-food restaurants haven’t tried to replicate it in their own menus.
And while I’m not a big breakfast person myself, I could see why Canadians have been stopping by Tim Hortons to pick up a doughnut and coffee in the mornings since 1964.
Next time I come to London’s Tim Hortons, I plan to try menu items not available back in Canada like the fruit-flavored coolers.
Canadians may have Bieber’s cold brew, but there are more than a few things we have available in the UK that the chain doesn’t serve back in Canada, a representative of Tim Hortons told me. These include the iced caramel macchiato, lattice fries, burgers, hot dogs, and a few doughnut flavors including the strawberry trifle and lemon meringue.
Given how close I live to the restaurant, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back. And as a Brit who only just had her first Tim Hortons experience, it sounds like there’s plenty more to explore.
Read the original article on Insider