One side effect of unemployment is the ample time it gives for self-reflection. Some might argue this is a good thing, but I’m not convinced it’s a particularly profitable exercise. I’ve learnt some home truths in the last few weeks that I think I would have happily ignored for the rest of my days, given the chance. Like the fact that I think I’m super-glam but actually, last week it took me about 4 days to get dressed properly. And when I finally did, I walked to the tube with my skirt tucked into my pants. I only realised when a homeless man told me.
But saying that, I’ve also learnt some really great things. One of these is that after having claimed for years that fast food is for freaks – cuff me – I really, really like fried chicken.
BIG F*CKIN DEAL right? Wrong. I realise that saying this I sound like one of those mums who say they don’t like milk chocolate when quite clearly everybody knows that Dairy Milk is the manna of our millennium. But lest you forget, I have spent half a decade claiming that I, like, totally only eat organic and that Holland & Barrett is actually really good value for money. And last night, sticky-fingered and guzzling, I saw the light. I realised that NOBODY LIKES A GWYNETH. (Sorry Chris Martin. Too soon maybe???)
This revelation came about courtesy of Wishbone, Brixton Village’s chicken-wing hotspot once derided by the evil genius Jay Rayner – the food critic who can make or break a restaurant with no more than a flounce of his enviably luscious locks. Rayner called Wishbone ‘just wrong’ in 2013; cheap, awful, wasteful, and capable of making a vegetarian fancy a night in at Chicken Cottage. I read this review when it was published last year. Jay wrote, and I listened. He brewed up a big batch of bitchiness and I bought it all. Oh Jay! How I trusted you and how you failed me.
Jay also said Wishbone was ‘all those pimped-up, dirty-food clichés you’ve been reading about in one messy, shoot-me-now package’. And, hands up, I admit I have to wholly agree with him here. Wishbone is definitely pimped-up – its menu is bold, brash and OTT, screaming about things so deep-fried-double-dipped-cheese-slathered-and-oozy that they make your heart seize just looking. But if indeed heart failure threatens, just reading the words ‘deep-fried Mac n’ Cheese’ should get your pulse racing again with sheer excitement.
It is cliché. Wishbone is located just down from that other hub of yuppiness Franco Manca, in the ever more gentrified Brixton Village. And like Franco Manca, like Mama Lan, like Honest Burger – like any number of the restaurants that have swanned in and swallowed up the local fishmongers and ethnic markets – Wishbone is partly responsible for filling Brixton with those angels & hipsters who just luuuurve southwest London and who wander round pointing at funny vegetables and saying “yams” like Brad Pitt did in Friends. And I admit, I’m one of them, but if it means I gots me some fried chicken in my belly, I may just let it slide.
And Wishbone is certainly messy. Our food came on a red and white greaseproof-covered tray, haphazardly piled (soooooo pop-up chic!). Forks were hard to come by, hidden on the bar, and a roll of kitchen paper on the table made it clear that cutlery is, in fact, for pussies (durr).
But it was also delicious (and free-range! We’re in Brixton Village, remember). It would seem Wishbone has upped its game since Jay Rayner visited; it’s likely they had to if anyone was going to carry on going. And so while the punchy sauce that was drizzled over our deep-fried Korean wings erred on the vinegary side, the batter was crispily perfect. Thai wings were about as Thai as me with a chilli up my jacksie, but the meat inside was juicy and rich. All the thighs we tried were fleshy and generous. And not once was there was a trace of the phlegmy, grey film of uncooked flour that so often lurks beneath the surface of badly fried fare like an unwelcome bogey. Our black-bean salad was admittedly unremarkable and wine came in tumblers (cool? Or just a bit image? Neither? Both? Who cares?). We left full, happy, about 3 stone heavier and only £10 lighter each.
In short, Jay was right on a few accounts. Wishbone isn’t perfect; it isn’t clever food, it isn’t exciting and it certainly isn’t ground-breaking, but it’s a fried chicken shop. What do you expect?
Wishbone, Unit 12 Market Row, Brixton Market, London, SW9 8PR
0207 274 0939