Beloved Filipino restaurant chain Jollibee will open a flagship London restaurant in Leicester Square early next year. Planning documents submitted to Westminster Council show it will open at 22 Leicester Square on the Bella Italia site, with the first part of a wider push to expand across the UK according to Big Hospitality.
The Chickenjoy fried chicken and spaghetti with hot dogs originally named for its mascot, Hetty, are the key menu items that came to the UK operation; its menu in the Philippines is broader, with longganisa for breakfast and pancit palabok, the Filipino noodle dish rich in pork and the low umami note of dried fish. In a pasta guide designed to drive Italians crazy for food, Eater London collaborator Hester van Hensbergen wrote:
Philippine restaurant chain Jollibee first presented its spaghetti special in 1979. Five years later, the chain’s red bee representative was joined by stringy-haired, pink-skirted Hetty, the spaghetti mascot. Now a global mega-company, with thousands of outlets around the world, Londoners can get their hands on every signature too, including Chickenjoy Fried Chicken, Yumburgers, Jolly Hot Dogs and Jolly Pasta. Spaghetti is a childish concoction: Hetty’s mats are dipped in a squalid, cheeky sauce with minced meat and chopped hot dogs, then topped with grated cheese … or cuttings from the ground from hairdressers in Hetty. The dish is usually served with the fried chicken.
With another London restaurant at Earl’s Court opening in 2018, one in Liverpool and another in Leicester, his ambitious plans for 50 UK restaurants appear to be on the move despite the business impact of the novel coronavirus pandemic.