Thursday, 21 March 2019

Thunderbird, Brixton

Although the lineup is constantly changing, there's always more than one reason to visit Brixton's Market Row. Salon has been South London's favourite brunch spot for a number of years now, the original Franco Manca is still the best (and most popular), and if Nanban isn't the absolute best way to do fusion Japanese cooking then I don't know what is. Try their goat ramen, it'll change your life.

Latest to join this hallowed company is Thunderbird, following the solid London tradition of graduating from streetfood stars to this, their first bricks-and-mortar restaurant. I was always likely to visit, as the search for buffalo wings is a kind of mini obsession of mine, but an invite from a PR company gave me the nudge I needed and so one cold February evening I found myself in this brightly coloured and rather noisy space, blinking incredulously at the idea of "Salted caramel chicken wings".

But more on those later. Firstly let's talk about the Thunderbird Buffalo wings, or rather "Chipuffalo" as they call them as the sauce somewhat non-traditionally involves chipotle. The good news is that they're doing almost everything right in this regard. The sauce is spicy and buttery, and despite the fact I didn't detect much in the way of chipotle this is probably for the best. The blue cheese "dip" was in fact not the usual thin ranch dressing but instead a solid paste, seemingly little other than pure blue cheese - again, hardly traditional but I had no complaints. But the real star was the chicken itself, delightfully crunchy on the outside and without a hint of dryness or overcooking inside, they were about as good as you could possibly want - the natural result, I'm sure, of a great deal of experimentation and tweaking of recipe and method over quite a bit of time.

The only element of the order I didn't much enjoy was the pickled celery. There's something about the way sticks of celery go when pickled that makes them rather rubbery and difficult to eat, which is why you usually find them cut into small slices. Anyway, why bother pickling it at all? A stick of fresh celery would make much more sense. Still, a minor quibble overall, and not enough to stop Thunderbird's "Chipuffalo" easily competing with some of the best in town (if you get a chance, check out Sticky Wings, Chick'n'Sours and Orange Buffalo).

I also enjoyed the "Thunderbun", which in contrast to the mile-high superburgers that seem to be the norm these days, was instead the perfect height for eating, a compact little thing with a good chicken-sauce ratio and a lovely soft bun (by Millers) in the potato roll style.

Chips were fine. It goes without saying that they pale in comparison to places like Chick'n'Sours, who cook theirs in beef dripping, but they still did a decent enough job, dusted with cajun spicing and dressed in "Awesome Sauce" (mayo-based, same as used in the bun).

Salted Caramel Chicken Wings, were, as you might be forgiven to expect, horrid. Part of me admires, in a twisted way, that this car-crash of an idea got all the way from the drawing block to the printed menu without anyone saying "what the hell are you thinking" - in a largely identikit trend-chasing world we could do with a few more completely batshit ideas to spice things up a bit. But yeah, full marks for originality, zero marks for execution. Sweet and weird and completely wrong.

But look, there's a slim chance - a very slim chance, but still a chance - that salted caramel chicken wings are to somebody's taste out there, and anyway it's not like anyone's forcing you to order them. And with the Buffalo - sorry, Chipuffalo - wings and the Thunderbun there's still plenty else to enjoy, so much so that a couple of weeks later I snuck back in on my own dollar to check that they were as good as the first time. And they were. So welcome to Brixton, Thunderbird - it looks like you'll fit right in. Salted caramel wings and all.


My first visit to Thunderbird was on the house, then I paid myself for a return trip.


Unknown said...

is it in the same spot as Chicken Liquor used to be?

Chris Pople said...

Unknown: No, couple doors down. Apparently it used to be Pieminister.