Nick Buglione goes finger lickin’ Chicken at Thunderbird
To misquote Watford striker Troy Deeney, you have to have decent sized “cojones” to open a chicken shop in downtown Brixton when the likes of Fancy Funkin’ Chicken, Chicken Liquor and fellow dirty street food travellers have come and gone.
London’s spiritual home of fried chicken hosts everyone from Jeff the Chef’s legendary little van (worth a visit BTW) right through to KFC. And there’s Nando’s chipping in, so it’s a competitive world.
But not always a perfect one. What the new-wave buttermilk brigade brought was, in most cases, a new improved take on the old classic fried bird. Better chicken, better cooking, a wealth of new flavours from kimchi to habanero to chipotle, serious spice, big heat.
Taking chicken away from 3am-soak-up-the booze-only-place-open-on-the-wobble-home guilty secret and into more discerning territory.
Enter Thunderbird. Latest arrival in Market Row. Via the now well-trod route of street food van start-up (Dinerama and Giant Robot) upgrades to perma-site. Where the short-lived Pieminster used to live we have a small, order-at-the-counter joint decked out in dark blue with trademark “lightning bolt” lighting, minimalist deco, stools and tables downstairs, bit boothier upstairs. Simples.Thunderbird apparently came about after Matt Harris found himself stateside after an unsuccessful attempt to become a Nascar driver. Finding himself at a loose end, he discovered the fried chicken and BBQ of the Deep South. Developed his own recipes. Bought a van. Got cooking.
So the Thunderbird menu is pretty simple – WingFest award-winning wings, buns, boxes and buckets, sides, shakes and beers. This is never the kind of food I cook at home so a bit of a sneaky treat, to which I have brought daughter#1 along.
I am perhaps inadvertently in a rogue episode of Man V Food somewhere in Tennessee?
First stop – wings. We tried all sorts, mid-table heat Chipuffalo (buffalo, chipotle, coriander with blue cheese), a fairly nuclear spicy Habanero (roasted red pepper cream, habanero, tamarind), BBQ and a Thunderbird signature, Salted caramel. Little B’s faves were the salted caramel with a funky sweet and sour salty thing going on. Me? Probably the fiery lip-tingling Habanero.
While Miss B enthusiastically dives into a cookies & cream shake, buns arrive. Her, Thunderbun, fried chicken, “secret” Awesome sauce, iceberg and pickles. Me? With eyes bigger than any reasonable capacity I went for the big kahuna Meltdown, molten jalapeno and miso cheese, charred pepper aioli, iceberg and pickles. Plus, similarly styled Cajun Meltdown fries. I am perhaps inadvertently in a rogue episode of Man V Food somewhere in Tennessee?
Clearly this is all a cut above run of the mill “new-chicken”. Matt and co have come up with some interesting combos, and not a little backstage technique, which all works.
The chicken is moist with super crispy cladding, my jalapeno-miso cheese is great and once again, Thunderbird bring the heat (they happily down grade the spice for junior B so if you want it calmed down, just ask). You can also have combo boxes and group buckets and get messy.
What’s not to like? Thunderbird is not revolutionary, it’s evolutionary, with innovative detours from the usual. A chicken shop is in the end, a chicken shop and Thunderbird is an interesting new arrival on the starting grid. Chicken tonight? Thunderbird will give you (spicy) wings.
10 Market Row, SW9 8LB | thunderbirdckn.co.uk | @ThunderbirdCKN