Eating Out

Restaurant Review – Buffalo Wings London

Buffalo wings are not native to England.  I’ve never had a proper buffalo wing in this country which is strange because there’s a chicken shop on every corner.  When an English person asks for a hot wing, they’re expecting fried chicken wings with cayenne mixed in the flour.  No sauce on them, no blue cheese, no carrots, no finger licking.  This has posed quite a challenge for me because Buffalo wings are my favorite food.  OK so it’s my second favorite food.  My most favorite food since I was five years old is Salisbury steak TV dinners…the ones with the mashed potatoes and corn (and remember back in the day when there was the cherry crumble for dessert) but I’m definitely not getting that in England.

Well, no more.  Houston, we’ve got WINGS!

Mike and I discovered Sticky Wings on a whim while walking along Brick Lane.   Now for those of you who have never been to London, Brick Lane is the heart of Indian cuisine in the City. The narrow, partially cobbled street is line with Indian restaurants with curry wafting through every door.  As you walk down the street each restaurant host tells you how lovely you are and offers you a deal on the best curry in London.  As we walked past each restaurant wondering which “award winning” establishment we would grace,  I saw something different.  A sign not touting Bombay’s best but Sticky Wings.  My heart stopped.  Could it be?  Were my eyes deceiving me (because you know I’m getting older and everything else is breaking down)?  Was this a wing shack?  I looked at the menu posted on the glass and to my utter glee, discovered that Sticky Wings is a US style wing joint.

When we go in we’re greeted by Darul, the English owner who spent several years working and eating in the US.  We could see by the Frank’s Red Hot and French’s mustard on the tables that he’d really paid attention.  He even imported old Chili’s tables to make the restaurant even more American. His one-page menu has only a few flavors of wings but that’s the key. A short menu means more time to focus on getting those few dishes right.  On our first visit, we tried the buffalo and the sticky BBQ with fries and a side of deep fried corn on the cob (no that’s not a typo it was deep fried).  We chose the American portion (11 wings) to share between the two of us. The UK portion is a more manageable 6 wings (yes, now that we live in England I can’t handle an American sized portion of anything anymore).  The wings are cooked perfectly and you can tell that the meat is high quality (definitely no arsenic in these chickens).  I’ve eaten Buffalo wings in their birthplace, the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, NY, and these weren’t far off.

The trick to a good naked wing is to fry them (without breading) so that the skin crisps up.  Then you coat them with the sauce just before serving while they’re piping hot so that the skin stays crispy.  Not a lot of people can get the crispy part just right but Darul did it.  No soggy wings here.  The sauces were excellent.  My only complaint was that the sticky BBQ wasn’t sticky enough.  On our second trip later that evening (yes we had a fat day that day and went back a few hours later), we tried the jerk twist which was, quite honestly, one of the best wing sauces I’ve eaten.  I don’t want to give away the twist but it was definitely a pleasant surprise.  We also had the fried mushrooms on our second trip.  I literally couldn’t stop eating them.  When we were down to the last one, we nearly fought.  And back to that deep fried corn on the cob.  Yes, everyone thinks that we Americans deep fry everything so why did I need to come to the UK to try deep fried corn? Pure GENIUS!  The corn isn’t battered or breaded; it’s just dipped in the hot oil to cook.  Darul adds some secret spice to give it some kick and voilà!

As we left the second time, the owner gave us a parting gift.  Two slices of homemade Oreo cheesecake.  I don’t eat cheesecake but Mike’s direct quote as he stared dopey eyed at his empty, chocolate smeared fork “this guy is doin’ something”.  I think he might love Sticky Wings’ Oreo cheesecake at least as much as fried chicken.

So if you happen to come to London head over to Brick Lane and say hi to Darul at Sticky Wings and tell him the Americans sent you.  It’s definitely worth the stop.

Sticky Wings

40 Brick Lane

E1 6RF London, United Kingdom

www.stickywings.com

Twitter: @StickyWings

Facebook:   StickyWings

Dinner and a Movie – 2012 Style

Mike (AKA my husband) got the first paycheck from his new job, found out he passed (just barely) his anatomy exam and rode a mechanical bull without killing himself at work (yes, they had this in the office during work hours).  Each is  sufficient reason on its own to celebrate but all of them occurred on the same day so we could not pass up an opportunity to stay up past our 10:30pm bedtime.  The method of celebration…dinner and a movie.

Remember in the 90’s when movie theaters attempted to go upscale by providing a dining experience while watching the latest release.   In my small city, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, we achieved this with paper plates, plastic forks, poor service and cold food much worse than what you’d get at Burger King.  Odeon Lounge has brought this concept into the 21st century. OK so the tickets are a bit pricey (£18 per person) but so worth it.  When we arrive, the concierge ushers us like VIP’s past the peons queuing for the regular theater.  After ascending the stairs we arrive in what is about as close as it gets to our version of heaven.  A giant bar with a sparkling high brow liquor pyramid  accented by dark wood and stainless steel.  Leather seating skirt the walls paired with knee high tables and flickering tea lights. The atmosphere is like the most exclusive lounge in London.  The maître d’ gives us the lay of the land and offers us a seat while we wait for our screen to open.

The drinks menu was extensive with meticulously chosen concoctions that my husband says are indicative of a real mixologist in charge of the bar.  My drink, the Fruity Fizz, a non-alcoholic cocktail of ginger beer, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries was so good that I was a little concerned that it might just have a touch of something (but it doesn’t).  Mike’s drink, Perfect Bourbon Manhattan, was one of the best he’s had (and that’s saying something for a guy who has imbibed more than a few cocktails in his day).

About 20 minutes before the start of the show, the staff walked us into the screening room to our pre selected assigned seat.  All leather loungers make me feel like I’m on a Delta business class flight across the pond.  With a push of a button I prop my legs up and get ready to combine my two most favorite things in the world, food and film.

The British have absolutely no clue how to make movie theater popcorn.  In most theaters, movie-goers receive popcorn shipped in a big bag that’s kept in a store-room.  Teenage cashiers heap it into heated compartments at the concession stand to simulate freshness.  I’ve never seen a real popcorn popper at the cinema.  Oddly enough, the British think that butter on popcorn is an impossibly grotesque concept (despite putting butter on every type of sandwich imaginable).   The waitress brought our warm freshly popped popcorn in a lovely ceramic bowl and it was, quite possibly, the best popcorn I have ever had. Someone American must be running this joint.   We looked down about five minutes into the show to realize that only a few measly kernels remained.  You could almost hear the chirping whistle indicative of a shoot out at the OK Corral as we each eyed the last plump buttery white puffs.

A few minutes into the start of the movie our meals arrived.  The menu isn’t extensive but what’s there is meant to fancify movie food. The fish and chips  that I ordered were almost perfect.  The five crisp nuggets of white fish battered lightly and hot from the kitchen had only one problem…they lacked a dash of salt (and some hot sauce but that’s pushing it).  Unfortunately, despite pressing the waitress button a couple of times, no one ever showed up to bring me any.  Mike’s fried calamari was well seasoned and the portion was enough to fill him.  Mr. Fried Calamari Expert loved it.  One side question that I know you’re probably interested in…didn’t the waiters get in the way?  No, you barely notice them and one of the theater’s selling points is that the wait staff has uniforms made of special material to eliminate the swish-swish sound of their pants (trousers for you British) as they’re walking the floor.

Now this wasn’t a cheap evening – £37.50 for the tickets and £47 for our two meals, two drinks, popcorn, a small water and service (gratuity). Was it worth it?  Absolutely yes.  This isn’t something that most can do every weekend but, for a movie lover,  it’s a really nice way to celebrate those special times that come up in life.

Odeon Lounge

 Queensway

 London W2 4YN

 0871 224 4007

 

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