Monday, 5 November 2018

Wing Stop, Covent Garden

I have moaned before about the lack of Buffalo wing options in London, in fact I've moaned quite a lot, so by rights I should have been pleased at the news that huge American chain Wing Stop had landed in Cambridge Circus. Americans invented Buffalo wings (in, er, Buffalo, NY) and though there are mediocre examples available on both sides of the pond it's fair to say that the average American is more clear what they expect when ordering the things - namely, jointed chicken wings (no tips), fried then covered in a sauce of 50% hot sauce (by default Frank's Red Hot) and 50% butter, served with a blue cheese dip and somtimes little sticks of celery and carrot. It's not a complicated dish, but variations in the quality of the chicken, the style of hot sauce and - with the most potential for disaster - the blue cheese dip means that truly excellent Buffalo wings do not come along very often. And don't get me started on the crimes committed in the name of Buffalo Wings in most pubs in London.

So I really wanted to love Wing Stop. Despite the tourist-trap location, the overlarge menu that didn't once mention the word "Buffalo", and through an ordering process that involved waiting patiently while the entire, seemingly completely foreign concept of choosing what to eat and then paying for it was slowly explained to the people in front of us, I managed to keep a tight hold of my optimism. Even when presented with a bill for £14.30 for 8 wings, fries and a drink and was encouraged to mill around aimlessly waiting for my buzzer to go, even through all that I thought it still might be worth the effort.

It wasn't. Most importantly, in fact really the only important thing all said and done, the wings were poor - tiny, gnarly, feeble little bits of bird, flesh stained black and bones exposed, clearly from animals that had not had a good time on this planet. The sauce they were in was decent, enough of a kick of chilli and nice and glossy with butter, but this did not make up for the chicken at all. For a while I attempted to eat around the dark sloppy patches of seeping hemoglobin (a common side effect of using frozen chicken, but let's leave it at that), and to avoid the crunchiest bits of overcooked cartilage but eventually I got to the point where it just wasn't worth wasting the calories. Fries had skins on - because which multinational fast food chain has time to peel potatoes these days? - and were seasoned with sugar. No, I don't know why either.

Oh, weirdly though, the blue cheese dip was lovely. And I like the fact they have those multi-flavour drinks machines so you can order a pint of half-and-half caffeine-free peach-flavour Diet Coke and lime tango, if you feel the need. But there are far better, far cheaper ways to get your wings fix in town - Meatliquor do a giant pile of them for about £8, and there's good old Sticky Wings on Brick Lane doing 11 excellent wings, with fries and a dip, for a tenner. Did Wing Stop do their market research do you think? Did they buggery.

Anyway let's not dwell on it. Life's too short for bad wings. Next time I want to spend £14.30 on lunch on a giant American chain in Covent Garden I'll go to Shake Shack over the road, who - and I really mean this - are excellent. Get the double cheeseburger with bacon and all the salad, or the Shack Burger. In fact get whatever you want. Just don't go to Wing Stop.


I didn't have my Big Camera with me for this lunch. It's not a deliberate ploy to make the wings look bad, though, they really were that terrible.


Chris said...

Oh how disappointing. I had high hopes for this place 😢

Tim said...

Universally the best must be Wingmans, with their gaff in Kilburn and vans all over. A close second would be the Star pubs (particularly Star of Leyton) and their wings supplied my the excellent We Serve Humans. Bird should be good and I've tried to like but they simply aren't up to it - and I think their servings are worse on 'Wing Wednesday' but that might be a conspiracy theory. Oh, Randy's Wing Bar in Hackney Wick is great, but still sitting in third place IMO. Nothing of any standard central that I know of. Not a fan of Meat Liquor or Meat Market for wings. They seem to have stopped doing a mixture of drums and flats and now just do drums. Senseless behaviour ;) Anyway, thanks for saving me 14.30.

Matt said...

I've just come back from Wingmans in Kilburn, and I think it might be the answer to your prayers.

Curious Emily said...

Another vote for Randy's. Also Passyunk Avenue does very good wings but if you have that AND a Philly cheese steak you'll fall asleep on the way home. Butchies' ones are also very good.

Sarah said...

Another thing this American expects when I eat wings is FRIED CHEESE STICKS. Wing stop doesn't have them on the menu and this is the true mark against them. You need the cheese sticks to soak up extra buffalo sauce!!

Braintree said...

The odd thing is I took part in focus group for Wing Stop and we all said it was too pricey, we have been ignored bu the original concept involved collaborating with DJs (Please let me eat my chicken in silence) so least that isn't happening in Shaftesbury Avenue.

As I was overfamiliar with the chain the server was grateful I knew how to order but I cannot see it surviving long with long queues, confused customers and in my case a mix up between wings and boneless but they are new and that is fixable .I just don't think faux fast food works in London when you have so many options