The long awaited fried chicken joint Wishbone Brixton has been positioning itself to be the big daddy of the current ‘dude food‘ craze sweeping London with its dirty burgers, pulled pork and deep fried sides. For some reason London’s favourite fried chicken hadn’t really been touched by the trend to take takeaway style food to a proper table and treat it to a night out. Promising something cooler than Nando’s and a lot higher animal welfare with free range meat, Wishbone has finally opened in Market Row after teasing everyone with the promise of finger licking fun.
I’m sorry to report that it doesn’t live up to expectation. From first entry, it feels confused. A wide shopfront seems to promise tables outside but there were none there. Past the totally non accessible step that tells you this is neither family (nor disabled) friendly, there’s a huge bar and a scattering of small high formica tables that seem to have very few seats to go round. Unable to venture upstairs since we had a small baby in a pushchair, we perched on seats that had been specially brought and were brought the huge drinks menu immediately.
Oddly the food menu is on a blackboard in the far corner, partially obscured by the overhang of the bar and the fact that it’s not clear whether this place is order at the bar or sit down service confused things. We peered at it as best we could, coming to the conclusion that the downstairs of Wishbone is more designed to be a stand and drink style joint with small dishes of food to soak up the impressive range of whiskey, gin or vodka sours. Being 4pm, it wasn’t quite cocktail hour for either of us so we fancied trying one of the much vaunted craft beers. But there were only 3 choices, Vedett, Budvar or one I can’t read from where I scribbled it down. At £4 a bottle and offering nothing to rival old favourites or new finds at The Craft Beer Co or The Crown and Anchor, we went for a Coke and a Dr Pepper instead, despite the menu being no more descriptive than ‘softs’.
But hey, we weren’t there for the booze. We were there for the chicken. You pick from three sorts of wings, two types of thighs, 1/4 or 1/2 chickens and side dishes. We went for Korean fried wings since chicken lovers will tell you they do it better than anyone else in the world. We also swooped in on Salt n’ Pepa thighs and deep fried mac n’cheese and fries to get us going. Being the first day, the 1/4 and 1/2 chickens weren’t on the menu yet and from craning our heads, we didn’t spot any veggie main options or gluten free choices. Slightly harried staff offered very little info about the food and the free range aspect is only mentioned in passing.
I sincerely hope those chickens had good lives, because they did not have good endings. The Korean wings were huge unjointed untipped beasts not clad in the double dipped willo-the-wisp light batter you expect from Korean master fryers, but dunked in heavy thick batter that tasted packet made and doused with a single note vinegary sauce that could strip paint. I couldn’t find the rumoured daikon. The salt n’ pepa thighs weren’t on the bone, but nugget style in a Southern fried style that reminded me less of Memphis and more of M&S Southern Fried Grills, only less moist. There was another potently vinegary sauce on the side for dipping. My American dining companion was certainly not impressed. Fries were anaemic and tasted like Maccy D’s. Deep fried mac n’cheese was lumps of macaroni cheese straight out of a box, underseasoned, mixed with lurid fake ‘cheese food’ and coated in crumbs almost as luridly coloured. Everything dripped with oil on the fingers and we needed the thoughtfully provided napkins and wipes.
I see why the focus is all about the bar. This is the type of food that could only taste good when you’re tipsy. A whiskey sour would cut through the oil at least. But stone cold sober, we struggled with it, finishing none of the dishes. Portions that looked well priced and generous in size became a burden. At £5.50 for the thighs and £4.50 for the 4 wings, £4.50 for the mac n’ cheese and £2.50 for the fries, this would be good value if you finished them all. As it was, we barely knew what to say when the waiter took the remains away. This wasn’t the usual teething troubles of opening day. It was bad food cooked badly.
Everything about Wishbone smacks of a commercial endeavour to get a bar opened in the trendiest bit of town. The food seems extraneous to the booze. There’s no passion or excitement about what you’re eating and the detail is slapdash. The atmosphere is heavily male to the point of note and the whole thing seems like a box ticking exercise to pull in the hipsters. There’s certainly been no interaction with the Brixton community I’ve seen and there wasn’t even a sign outside to announce itself to Market Row on opening day. I had high hopes for Wishbone, but left neither welcomed nor wowed. When I want chicken in Brixton, I’ll be going to Mama Lan’s for wings or Curry Ono for fried chicken and leaving this place to the visitors it is so obviously aimed at.
I went there with a group of friends last week for a few Pisco sours. Since back from our trip to Peru we are big fans of that drink! WHAT A DISAPPOINTMENT!
First round was ok’ish, but then next were getting more and more sweet with were very weak alcohol content. At some point all shared the same impression. I have approached the manager and complained about it. She dipped a straw in my glass for a taste and said it tastes perfectly good. No discussion.
We do know what Pisco Sour is like and it was definitely not that thing. What we had in a glasses was something that couldn’t give you anything else than sugar rush! £5,5 each!
No, thank you! We won’t go there ever again
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I made this mistake of eating here yesterday and agree that the food is terrible. In particular, the “Korean Wings” are nothing like the fried chicken typically served in Korea. The sauce had far too much vinegar, lacked garlic and sugar, and seemed to have been made with wrong kind of chilli (i.e. not gochujang).
This review is pretty much spot on – went there last night (23/1/13) and nothing’s improved. Heavy, greasy batter and (apart from one Aussie waiter with a beard) the staff were disinterested. 1/2 and 1/4 chickens “haven’t been on the menu for ages” – a bit too much effort perhaps? Plenty of better food in Brixton – give it a miss
I’ve been to Wishbone twice and have mixed feelings. First time I thought it was amazing – had buffalo wings, salt and pepa thighs, fries and mac’n’cheese and was blown away. Second time the mac’n’chesse was really disappointing, the wings we had (corenrshop?? can’t remember) was way too crispy, loads of things were off (ok – it was just before xmas so understand them running down their stock) and it just made me compeltely uninterested in going back.
I’m guessing the majority of staff or business owners of these new eateries at Market Row or Brix Village are not locals, therefore the ‘wealth’ is flowing out of Brixton.
£4.50 for FOUR WINGS? That definately prices a majority of us poor locals out of the market. The fried chicken shop on the corner of Coldharbour/Atlantic sells four wings for £1.00. I know the chicken shop’s chicken wings are not organic or free range or anything like that but the price difference.. what the..?
The chicken might be disappointing but the cocktails are very good and a bargain.
We got a bit spoiled in Brixton….if this had opened five years ago we will all be VERY happy. Now we expect all restaurants to be Franco or Honest. It is not going to happen. Be happy, we have the two best cheap eats in the UK and we have a great choice of pretty good places. Get drunk in Wishbone and eat at the Mexican opposite(best Margherita in town as well) , or keep drinking at 7, or go to Franco or have a coffee at Wild Caper or a Tea at Rosie or ….etc. etc. A big welcome to Wishbone!
Having now eaten in and had a takeaway from Wishbone, I feel like I should say I’ve been very happy with the food both times. The wings were admittedly quite batter heavy (though still very tasty) but the thighs (both thai and salt/pepper) were delicious and succulent. It certainly runs the risk as a venue of becoming a bit ‘uber trendy’ if it’s not careful esp as it has that vibe in the evening with cocktails etc, it was very busy and a tad hectic last friday, but I have to say I have only praise for the food I’ve had so far.
My friend and i tried wishbone and had a great night – delicious food, inexpensive, delightful staff and a really good, buzzy atmosphere – we can’t wait to go back. I know my kids will love it.
I’ve lived in Brixton for a very long time and think it’s absolutely brilliant how the markets have been transformed with both independents and chains (like honest burgers) doing well. Long may it go on. Bringing wealth and jobs into the area is all good especially at a time of recession.
I hope wishbone does well.
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Friend and I tried all the chicken on their menu and (after now reading the above review) I agree 100% with the above. Lots of thick slabs batter was our overwhelming impression. No thick chunks of moist chicken inside. Compared to the Korean fried chicken in Seoul which I’ve had (with skin cooked to thin crispy perfection, tender meat inside and a *chilli* sauce with a potent kick), Wishbone was like night compared to day. Given a choice, KFC for me wins hands down. It’s a s hame – I was looking forward very much to Wishbone as (hopefully) real Korean fried chicken in London but unfortunately not.
I’ve not been to wishbone yet (and I’m pretty excited about trying it) , but a couple of people here have said things along the lines of “its unfair to review places on their 1st day”.
I don’t take this view – if restaurants think its fair to charge full price on their 1st day, they should be playing their A game.
I take the same view. I went to a soft launch elsewhere recently where I wouldn’t have dreamed of reviewing and we actually quite enjoyed the slight confusion and double checking of things from our server.
I certainly had no issue with certain things not being available like the 1/4 and half chicken and only mentioned it because that’s the only reason we didn’t try anything on the bone. But they still didn’t mention they were newly opened, I only knew because of Twitter…
seems like there was an agenda
before the reviewer crossed the step
I work near the market
I’ve been twice at lunch …great chicken …and cheap
It’s been very busy whenever I go past so perhaps people are trying it on its merits
I took my teenagers second lunchtime they said it was cool !
No agenda at all. I’d been excited for 4 months waiting to try Wishbone, discussing it with friends from all round London and decided to review asap as so many people were asking me had I been, was it open etc?
Gave my honest review which was disappointing food and feeling unwelcome. Paid full price for the meal and had no point to prove, just giving my reaction to the place. I’m disappointed to be have been disappointed.
i went today. i am half american and I go to america ALOT and when i have fried chicken it is awesome. but today didn’t leave me astounded. the best chicken wings in brixton are at the thai restaurant kaosarn. and the wings here are too big!!
We tweeted Wishbone on Wednesday to see if they would do us a take away – they got straight back and said they were happy to rustle for us so we hotfooted it down to Market Row. We had a really delicious meal of salt n pepper thighs and some BBQ chicken with tonnes of chips that all travelled very well home. No post meal greasiness or that blobby feeling you sometimes get after fried chicken. The venue was still work in progress so I’m sure there were teething problems but they let us have a nose upstairs – last minute building was underway but it looked like it will be a great space. In fact we walked past last night and I think they have already opened upstairs. I will give them another go – the 11 & 13 yr old were well impressed!
That’s great to know that they were able to do you takeaway. I actually enquired about that on Twitter the other day and was told they didn’t offer it so that’s why I went on the opening day. I’d originally intended to takeaway so any teething troubles weren’t the issue.
I’ve now seen upstairs and it does seem like a great space with a lovely bird’s eye view of the market that makes for excellent people watching. It wasn’t ready to open though when I was in about 4pm.
I am keen to try to the 1/4 or 1/2 chicken on a return visit.
Cheer up Southy!
I haven’t yet been to Wishbone (I am looking forward to trying it though) – I just wanted to say that I think it’s slightly unfair to review places on their first day. Granted, you should not be open if you are not ready but maybe throw them a bone and give them a week or so to iron out any last minute kinks?
After eating at Bukowskis the other week we decided the smash and grab chain restaurants are doing on Brixton Village seriously endangers its ability to continue to provide cutting edge food. We’ll go and try Wishbone but don’t hold out much hope. This space was better when it was about independent foodies seeking a means of trialing innovative eating experiences rather than business people taking advantage of an opportunity to make a quick buck by selling lowest common denominator food to the masses… who’ve migrated from Hoxton to Brixton for the experience.
Having been to wishbone last night, I must say, I find your critique to be quite unjust. I tried the Thai chicken and the Korean chicken wings, they were succulent and crispy, everything I would want from a chicken joint. I would also have to disagree with your comment on restaurants only being about the food; atmosphere is equally as important as the food quality, and if you don’t agree, get a take away.
Having ventured into Wishbone and tried everything on the menu except the 1/4 chicken, fries and slaw I personally think you’re being rather harsh with this review Ms South. Yes not everything is perfect but it was their first day and constructive feedback/criticism would rectify said issues in no time.
I notice you never thought to have a look upstairs and check out the excellently designed seating area and mini bar or even mention the on site toilets (something I’ve not noticed in any other venue in the village). I would encourage everyone to try Wishbone and I can’t wait to go back for some more salt’n’pepper chicken and corner shop wings. Next time I may even try the large selection of Sours to start a night out in Brixton.
Happy blogging, very please Wishbone Customer 🙂
I can’t comment on the food I didn’t eat (and I mentioned that the 1/4 and 1/2 chickens were off the day I went) but everything I had did not live up to expectation.
Upstairs I believe isn’t yet open and I wasn’t able to go up and check it out therefore. And while I should have mentioned they have a toilet, someone was in it and I didn’t really have time to wait. But for me, it’s about the food not the design of the chairs and I was sorely disappointed.
I’ve looking forward to Wishbone opening and had even arranged two more visits with friends before it opened. I’ll still go as I want to see if the Buffalo wings are more impressive.
What a shame, it certainly looked promising from the outset. Have you tried Chicken Shop up in Kentish Town? it’s a bit closer to the Nandos model (no breadcrumbs/battered chicken) and I thought it was brilliant. Pricey, all things considered (a meal for two without dessert but with a small pitcher of wine comes in at over £30) but the chicken was succulent and flavoursome and the sides worth a shot. The only thing I wasn’t keen on was the apple pie which had way too much pastry and I fear was more sugar than apple.
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