LONDON | We had a mission. It was simple. We wanted to find the best chicken wings in London. And so The City Lane’s first ever London chicken wing challenge was born. Doing this on our own would have been tough. There are only so many portions of chicken wings we could get through, so fortunately we were able to enlist the help of 4 friends to help us find a winner – and they eagerly accepted the challenge.
Each person was assigned a contender. The planning and co-ordination was meticulous. We needed to make sure all contributions arrived at their optimal eating temperature. There is rumour that the planning and execution of the challenge will form the skeleton plot of the next Ocean’s film. The highlight of which will no doubt be how George Clooney’s chin copes with so much buffalo sauce.
Once the signal was given we descended on the 6 venues, collected 12 chicken wings, and met in a central location. We selected Liverpool Street as a meeting point due to the plethora of solid wing options that are easily reached on foot from the station. It just wasn’t going to be possible to get wings from opposite sides of the city for the one challenge (although it does give us an excuse for running another one in a different part of London). In no particular order the contenders were:
- MEATmission – 15 Hoxton Market, London, N1 6HG
- Sticky Wings – 40 Brick Lane, London E1 6R
- The Orange Buffalo – Old Truman Brewery, E1 6QL
- Bodeans – Various locations around London including Soho, Clapham, Old Street, Tower Hill, and Balham
- Patty & Bun – Various locations including Liverpool Street, Marylebone, and London Fields
- Clutch – 4 Ravenscroft Street, London E2 7QG
Some of these venues focus their talent purely on chicken wings. In others it can be seen as perhaps more of a sideshow to their more well-known offerings. We were pitting the old vanguard (Bodeans-a first mover on the London BBQ scene) against relative newcomers on the London wing scene. Broadly, the wings fall into the three camps: Asian, BBQ or Buffalo. In an effort to not cloud the competition too much, we went for each venue’s signature wing. As MEATmission and Clutch both offer distinct two types of wings (with neither being a “signature” wing), we put 2 from each of them to the test.
We tried each wing and then cast our vote, rating each wing 1 out of 10, 10 being the best. In a testament to the mantra that every vote counts—the winner captured first by a fraction. Without further ado, here are the results from last to first place. Here’s the before and after shots.
8. Clutch: Honey & Sesame (6.2 points)
Perhaps the most obscure choice in the line-up, Clutch is located just off Columbia Road. They tote themselves as “the home of guilt free fried chicken”. All their meat is free range and the coating is made from free range eggs and free of trans-fat. Clutch offers 12 wings for £12.00 – we got lucky and they gave us half a dozen of each variety. We were definitely impressed with the size and quality of the chicken. This crispy sweet wing is very hoisin-esque but doesn’t really get the flavours right. For us, this wing is something you’d want as an appetizer only.
7. Clutch: Sour & Spicy Chilli (6.2 points)
The Asian inspiration definitely comes through in this wing. It is very hot, with slices of freshly cut chilli enhancing a spice kick that continues long after each mouthful has been swallowed. The spice is long lasting and the wing is quite bulky. Unfortunately for Clutch, it seems in a judging panel dominated by Americans their non-buffalo sauce offerings were least appealing. We wouldn’t say this is necessarily a bad thing, and the variety was certainly welcome after consuming so many chicken wings. We look forward to sampling more of Clutch’s menu in the future as there’s a lot of potential here.
6. Meat Mission: Sambal Wings (6.6 points)
MEATmission is part of the MEATliquor family which now commands locations across the UK (and Singapore). We are huge fans of their burgers and wanted to test how their wings stood up against the competition. MEATmission wings will set you back £7.00. We had big expectations given the use of spicy Indonesian sambal. These tender, messy wings have a mild sweetness and aren’t as hot you’d expect – if you’re going to use sambal, you have to go hard!
5. Patty & Bun (7.2 points)
Patty & Bun is arguably the home of London’s best burgers. We’ve been several times for burgers but not everyone on the panel had tried the Patty & Bun chicken wings before, so expectations amongst this lot were high. The winger winger chicken dinner costs £5.50 and will provide you with a nice serving of chicken wings that have gone through an 18 hour confit cooking process – definitely the longest cook of any of the wings on this challenge!
These wings are super tender and instantly fall of the bone. We recognise that the optimal level of heat and sweet balance in any dish is a matter of personal preference, and these wings were a bit too sweet for some of the judges. While they work well as a side to a burger, they do become a bit sickly when eaten stand alone. If you haven’t tried them before, we highly recommend giving them a try along with a burger, just watch out for the mess, and don’t try them on a first date!
4. MEATmission: Bingo Wings (8 points)
The Bingo Chicken wings (£7.00) are slathered in house-made buffalo hot pepper sauce, served with a blue cheese dip. These wings are tender and very easy to eat, with a small zing after the wing touches the tongue. There’s a mild heat to each wing and noticeably, these wings have the least amount of meat compared to others in the challenge.
Much like Patty & Bun, MEATmission will serve you up some pretty tasty dishes to go with your wings. There are times in life when a Dead Hippie burger, bingo wings and fries are going to be tough to beat.
3. Bodeans (8.2 points)
We were expecting good things from this veteran contender. Bodeans is London’s original smoke house, and pre-dates the explosion of American themed casual dining around London. During the challenge we noticed that some of the wings mimicked the food from their restaurant. Close your eyes and the char grilled, smoky BBQ joint taste makes each wing almost mimick ribs.
Bodeans offer 6 large buffalo wings for £8.95. When they say large they aren’t kidding. 6 of the Bodeans wings were roughly equivalent to 12 from some of the other places in the challenge. The mixture of tangy and nutty flavours of these wings, combined with the classic American BBQ flavours meat that these rated highly. Everyone in the group was a fan. Definitely one of the contenders for the best chicken wings in London top spot.
2. The Orange Buffalo (8.4 points)
Last year, The Orange Buffalo won best Buffalo wing at the London Wing Fest and best “crazy” wing for the recipe they created especially for the event. They serve their free range chicken wings from a truck in Shoreditch just behind the Old Truman Brewery, but also have a permanent space at the Joker in Brighton.
We went for the signature buffalo wings, which are your typical all-American wings. They were reminiscent of Hooters world famous wings. They were swimming in a pool of sauce and had just the right amount of kick after each bite. The home made blue cheese was the perfect complement to moderate the spice of each bite. Buffalos may not have wings, but these wings were flying off the plate they were that good.
And the winner of The City Lane’s 2015 London Chicken Wing challenge is…
1. Sticky Wings (8.5 points)
Sticky Wings is a wing-lovers oasis in the middle of Brick Lane which touts itself as “the UK’s original buffalo wing shack”. Sticky wings has commanded accolades from several media outlets, and we’re happy to add our commendation to the list. Sticky Wings is a proper buffalo wing with a perfect orange hue. Buffalo sauce is made from butter, hot sauce, cayenne pepper, vinegar, garlic powder, salt, and Worcestershire sauce. The buffalo sauce blend has transformed the desirability of the chicken wing from the throw away cut to one very desirable bar snack. There are competing stories about the origin of buffalo sauce. Whatever the origin, we’d argue that it is the best damn export from the city of Buffalo.
Sticky Wings has both American and UK portion sizes to cater to every appetite (we went for the £9.99 “US Portion”). Some say that size isn’t everything, but when it comes to wings we beg to differ. These wings are massive and awesome, and served up with all that important side of blue cheese sauce.
Taste wise they hit all the right notes with the perfect amount of crunch. For the Americans on the panel, the moment these hit the tongue it was like we had been transported across the pond. We understand why these wings are consistently named the best wings in London. For now, we’d argue that these wings are the best you’ll find this side of New York. The wraps, burgers and cheesecake on offer are also well worth trying.
From the above, you can see that competition was tight and all the contenders performed above average. Finding the best chicken wings in London isn’t easy! None of these wings should walk (or is that fly) away feeling disappointed – as the saying goes “ain’t’ no thang but a chicken wang”. It was difficult to select the winner, but we sure had fun giving it a go. It’s great to see places experiementing with different flavours, but at the end of the day it was the flavours of the classic buffalo wings that hit the highest of notes. We look forward to another contest when we put South and West London’s wings to the test.
We encourage you to grab a wingman or wing woman and enjoy London’s flavourful wing scene. What do you think are the best chicken wings in London?