Thursday, 18 September 2014
Sticky Wings, Brick Lane
With chicken wings, as with many life experiences, you generally only remember the very worst or the very best. My personal worst is a tie between some sad little pucks of broiler poultry I had at Giraffe offshoot Chooks, which would have been bad enough even if I didn't have to travel all the way to Muswell Hill to find that out, and a box of flabby microwaved greaseballs that came free with my housemate's Domino's pizza one time. Both were not just poor but memorably inept, Chooks being a particularly lazy leap onto the chicken bandwagon, and the Domino's wings came with a vegetarian pizza. Who knows what they were thinking.
As for the best? My opinion is tied there too. On the one hand there are the MeatLiquor Bingo Wings, generous in flavour and portion size, and now served with even more of their lovely chunky blue cheese dip. And there is of course the brilliant Orange Buffalo, who use mango in their sauce and whose blue cheese dip is also worth the trip alone. Both are all the more impressive considering they've sourced or invented their own hot sauces (MeatLiquor's is from somewhere in Peckham, but like everything they do is shrouded in secrecy) - usually any attempt to steer away from the traditional Franks & butter ends in disaster.
But stop the presses, there's a new kid in town. Sticky Wings began life in the wilds of Lewisham but struggled with the lack of passing trade, staff, opening hours, basically everything you might expect when trying to run a restaurant in Lewisham. Now on bustling Brick Lane, they've at least solved the passing trade issue, and have themselves a bright and clean new restaurant in which to serve wings 4 ways, wraps, burgers and a variety of interesting sides.
First things first and if you take only one bit of information away from this post, make sure it's this - the Sticky Wings' American Buffalo wings are about as good an example as I've found anywhere in the world. They're great big healthy-looking things, with thick, strong bones and good, firm, flavoursome flesh. The skin is crisped up perfectly, bubbly and with a great crunch thanks to a deft hand with the fryer. And each are coated with a generous amount of classic Frank's hot sauce cut with butter. Dipped in some of the Sticky Wings blue cheese, they are impossible not to love.
For the sake of completeness, we tried a couple of other options. The boneless wings were in fact not wings but breasts, but were commendably moist and would make a good option for anyone too lazy to eat around the bones. Garlic mushrooms were nice and garlicky, jalapeno balls (the only item they don't make in-house we were told) had a lovely cheesy filling and were just spicy enough, and deep fried corn was dusted in some kind of BBQ rub which worked incredibly well.
We also tried a small portion of the hot chilli wings, their fierce heat generated by pickled ghost chilli amongst other things. Pickling the ghost chilli apparently tames the heat but retains all of the flavour, and it's certainly true they had more than just a dry heat; fresh herbs and spices created a complex and very satisfying effect. I'm glad we only got a small portion though - one was enough to have me reaching for an ice-cold Sam Adams.
There are more reasons to love Sticky Wings that don't have anything to do with the food. Firstly, the owners love to chat, and so service is just as much about welcoming you like an old friend as it is about bringing another round of seriously cold beer. And they won't even let you pay for said service - tips are not encouraged, but if you do insist on leaving something (as we did last night) they get donated to a local children's hospital. So you can enjoy of the best wings in the world whilst doing your bit for a good cause. I doubt anyone will need any more reasons to visit - this place is destined to be a huge hit.