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Anyone who knows me will be able to tell you that I bloody love wings. Some have said that it borders on an addiction. Have I considered getting help? I’m not sure if a wingaholic anonymous group exists but if it did I would not be attending. Until my love of wings causes my personal and professional life to fall apart in some delicious buffalo sauce flavoured fog, I don’t see a need.
My friends and I descended the escalators at Vauxhall station, having fought our way through the throngs of commuters, ready to catch the southbound service to Brixton. We were nervous with excitement. Chicken Liquor was an unknown quantity to us, we had found it scouring Google for good wings restaurants. The only recognisable thing was its naming convention, clearly part of the ever-expanding MeatLiquor group.
Having negotiated our way through the back roads and passages of Brixton we happened upon our destination. Taking a prominent position on the bustling Market Row, Chicken Liquor certainly stands out. The bright yellow of the sign shines invitingly whilst the shabby chic interior beckons you in. The inviting aromas of buffalo sauce and chicken waft into the enclosed space around briefly battling with competitors before winning outright.
Chicken Liquor is set up like a fast food restaurant/bar. The downstairs consists of a number of high tables where you can perch, whereas the second floor has a number of large round sharing tables. We were quickly shown to our seats and handed menus. “3 Vedett’s please.”
This could not be a simpler place to order, a refreshing change of pace. The decisions you need to make are solely flavour, serving type, sides. Being somewhat in love with wings our serving type was pre-determined. All that was left was flavour and sides. We got carried away. 3 portions of buffalo wings, 1 portion of chicken shop, 1 portion of Thai and 1 Garlic and Soy. On the side, 1 hot mess ( A delicious mix of hash browns, jalapeno, buffalo sauce and cheese), deep-fried mac and cheese cubes and fries. The waitress, hands shaking as she attempted to keep up with our order parted with a precautionary look. “Good luck.”
It did not take long for wings to arrive. The first thing we all noticed in each instance was the sheer size of the portion, I can only speculate that Chicken Liquor are breeding Hulk chickens.
We might as well start strongly as these are the best wings we had. The size as mentioned above was colossal. What was surprising though was the delicateness of the buffalo sauce. On the first bite you are hit with immense flavour. It is only as you proceed to crunch through the delicious mix of soft meat and the light crispy coating that the heat begins to rise. As it does so a gentle tingle engulfs your mouth with flavour. The delicious sourness of the sauce mixed with the salty blue cheese dressing and finally the sweetness of the chicken all released with a satisfying crunch makes these wings truly wonderful.
Thai, Chicken Shop, Garlic and Soy
With our mouths still tingling from the buffalo wings our second round appeared. The stand out from these was clearly the Chicken Shop wings. The perfectly cooked crunchy coating and the sweetness of the chicken inside provoked a wonderfully content feeling, perfectly capturing the taste we all expect from good fried chicken. The Thai and Garlic and Soy were a little more difficult. They all mixed well enough to be satisfying to an extent, but there was something missing with them, no wow factor, merely a commendable attempt to differentiate themselves from other wing restaurants. I feel that even if we had led with these wings finishing on the buffalo they would still have remained ever so slightly disappointing, like a romantic comedy where it doesn’t all work out in the end.
Fries are fries most of the time and these live up to that billing without reaching for more. They remind you of what you will get anywhere else, albeit more sympathetically cooked, but are always nice to nibble on. Rest assured they are not the standout item on the menu. The hot mess, literally a bowl filled with hash browns, jalapeno and melted cheese covered in buffalo sauce is delicious, for the first few bites. Unfortunately in this dish the sourness of the buffalo sauce and jalapeno is so overwhelming that the cheese and hash browns barely stand a chance. Maybe adding blue cheese would help the balance of this dish. The mac and cheese cubes were a guilty pleasure, however after eating a couple of them it is more guilt than pleasure. Unfortunately a sad fact of life is that it will always remain nigh on impossible to deep fry cheese without it developing a distinctly greasy texture and flavour. Delicious for a few bites but ultimately the conscience takes over.
Chicken Liquor is a restaurant that London sorely needed and it has come along at just the right time. With the gourmet burger market becoming saturated people are crying out for the next big thing. Some have bet on pizza, such as the delicious Franco Manca, yet it is only now that people are starting to realise the potential of wings. Such a simple food with delicate flavours which done in the right way can be truly spectacular. I would say that Chicken Liquor have achieved some seriously competitive buffalo wings and the differentiation of their menu shows real creativity. The other flavours were never going to live up to the buffalo. A little more refinement of these, as well as the hot mess will ensure that this place remains a successful and capable challenger for the London chicken wings crown.