Until relatively recently, the only place hungry Brits could go for unlimited grub was either Pizza Hut – at a cruelly inconvenient time for anyone but the unemployed – or at one of the countries ubiquitous Chinese buffets. How else would you celebrate a family event in the 90s, but with five well-coordinated plates of deep fried starters, luminous sauces and MSG? Outrageously delicious, but whats the point of an all-you-can-eat when you’re hungry again an hour later?
Americans have always done all-you-can-eat properly. In a country who’s motto is “Quantity Over Quality”, eating lots is more than just a greedy indulgence, it’s a sport. A proud and noble sport with national championships, huge cash prizes and big shiny trophies. They even show it on ESPN. While gluttony is frowned upon in most of the world, it’s a national pastime in the states. So it’s only natural that the newest wave of stuffing your face to hit London comes riding in on the coat tails of the new love of gourmet Americana that’s taken the country by storm.
Burgers and ribs have become an artform in the bare-bricked establishments of Soho, and every summer London holds an entire festival, Wingfest, to find the very best chicken wings in the land. And because we Brits are drawn to snappy alliteration even more than a bottomless buffet of sweet and sour chicken, Wings Wednesday mania has firmly wrapped it’s feathered limbs around the city and our hearts. Once a week.
As a disclaimer, not all of these are necessarily all you can eat wings, per se, some are simply great weekly offers that unless you’re an actual grizzly bear should fill you well and truly up with chicken wings for roughly the same price as the bottomless deals.
So, without further ado, here are the best bottomless (or nearly bottomless) chicken wings the city has to offer. Set your mouths to ‘salivate’:
Joe’s Southern Table and Bar
WHERE? Covent Garden
WHEN? Wing Wednesdays 12-7pm
HOW MUCH? £10 (plus one drink purchase) for all you can eat wings
One of my favourites. Whoever this ‘Joe’ is, he really knows how to throw a Wing Wednesday. Not for him a feast of only one flavour, Joe dishes up 4 types of wings. Buffalo of course is the top dog and these are cluckin’ marvellous, a good size with the just right amount of crunch. They can be a little light on the sauce so order an extra pot and slather it on. Next up, the Tabasco Honey wings are probably the best non-Buffalo wings I’ve ever tasted. Deliciously sweet with just the right hit of heat, but not quite as sickly as BBQ. Again, you can’t really have too much of this sauce and because it’s thinner than Buffalo it doesn’t quite hold on the wing as well, so get an extra pot and just dunk them in. If you still have a clean shirt by home time you’ve let yourself down. Southern Fried can often be dismissed as billy boring when sat next to all the fancy pants flavours, but the crunchy, well-seasoned coating at Joe’s would have even The Colonel sucking his well-manicured corporate digits. Last but not least, the old classic Sticky BBQ delivers just the right amount of finger-lickin’ sweetness you’d hope for. Consider these your dessert.
Tabasco and Honey Wings
The only real downside is that you have to arrive before 7pm and from your first order you only have 90 minutes to fill your face. But even with the waiteresses sluggishly limiting the amount they bring out to six at a time this should be plenty long enough to leave you orange-mouthed and wheezing on the Piccadilly line home.
WHERE? All over the city, but not all branches advertise the offer. See the website to check if your local does.
WHEN? Wings Wednesdays all day
HOW MUCH? £5 for a pound of wings (450g)
Not strictly ‘bottomless wings’, but every Wednesday this chain of pubs that specialises in craft beer and craft food dishes up 1 pound (weight, not money) of buffalo wings for 5 pounds (money, not weight). That’s just under a kilo for a tenner which should be plenty for most people. If you can spend £15 and still be hungry, I doff my cap to you, sir.
The buffalo wings themselves are quite small, but as you’re ordering by weight this shouldn’t really matter too much. And I suppose the smaller size increases the surface area, and therefore the sauce to chicken ratio. Which can only be a good thing. They’re really quite good too. Succulent chicken that peels off the bone covered in full-flavoured hot buffalo sauce that you can spice up with the bottle of Tabasco on the table, and a decent blue cheese dip to boot. Although not on the menu, you can also ask for BBQ if that’s your preference.
Maxwell’s Bar and Grill
WHERE? Covent Garden
HOW MUCH? £17.50 for all you can eat wings with a free pot of chips, and a free Sagres beer or thickshake
Maxwell’s is one of those American ‘bar and grills’ that like Fatty Arbuckles and TGI Friday’s sprung up in the wake of McDonalds to offer restaurant style Americana for a bigger than average price tag. Unlike its contemporaries, still found lurking next to Superbowl and Toys R Us on leisure parks around the country, Maxwell’s is not a chain restaurant (although they do own several other restaurants dotted around the capital) and to survive in Covent Garden it’s had to maintain an element of quality.
So while £17.50 does seem at the pricier end of the bottomless wings scale, that does come with a free drink and a small bucket of chips. Be warned however, while the thickshake might be tempting it will do a great job of filling up stomach space you could otherwise be filling with wings. And chips? Cheap carbs? These crafty bastards know exactly what they’re doing! So if you want a well balanced meal, sure dig in to your chips and your delicious dairy products, but if you just want to see how much meat you can shovel down your laughing gear then stick with your watery lager and your wings.
When we first booked a table and turned up it was only 7pm and they had ran out of wings. On wings Wednesday. We were rightly outraged and appalled, but with the bribe of a small free beer each we agreed to wait while they organised a deliver of more. Eventually, we got our wings. Buffalo and Sticky BBQ were once again on offer and were pretty good. The buffalo could’ve been spicier and the chicken a little crispier, but a better offering than expected. Coincidentally, nearby Joe’s Southern Bar is owned by the Maxwell’s Group, but somehow they just do it…better.
WHERE? Highgate, North London
WHEN? You guessed it, Wings Wednesdays! 12-10pm
HOW MUCH? £5 for half a kilo
Up in the wilds of far North London lies a pub with an excellent selection of craft and home brewed beers, a nice little beer garden, and some absolutely cracking Buffalo wings. Fat, crispy and perfectly spiced, these are some great limbs.
Unfortunately these are not all you can eat wings – unless you have an all you can spend wallet – but £5 for half a kilo is not bad at all. As with The Drafthouse, £10 should be enough for most, and if you can eat more than £15’s worth then I’d like your autograph. These only lose points for me on not being bottomless and that they’re so bloody far away.
The Ninth Ward
WHEN? Wednesdays AND TUESDAYS?! …The mavericks!
HOW MUCH? £10 for All-You-Can-Eat Wings
Rustic post-industrial setting? Check. A grand selection of craft beers? Check. Attractive, tattooed bar staff? Check. Elaborate and experimental menu including such delights as ‘The Chocolate Bacon Burger’? ….er…check!? Welcome to London. Specifically City of London wishing it was more in East London.
But when you’re not devouring chocolate meat, Ninth Ward do a cracking Wings Wednesday. And bizarrely, a just as cracking Wings Tuesday. Which is weird because that doesn’t even alliterate. They should’ve called it Tchicken Tuesday.
Tchicken Tuesdays and Wings Wednesday at Ninth Ward offer up 2 types of wings; a generously slathered Buffalo option with a pot of blue cheese and some celery for you to ignore, and a sticky sweet BBQ. They’re both heavily coated, so the BBQ can get a bit sickly sweet after a while, but the Buffalo is spot on. And as much as you can swallow for a tenner, well that’s what I call a weekday!
The Durell Arms
WHEN? Monda…I’m kidding. Obviously Wednesdays. 5-10pm
HOW MUCH? 50p per wing
On those long, cold London nights, when Sky Broadband is having ‘technical difficulties’ and nothing is on the telly, I’ll sometimes get my Canadian friend to regale me with tales from his homeland across the seas. Specifically tales about 25 cent wings nights. He used to tell me about 10 cent wing nights until I started to weep uncontrollably. Believe it or not, these fantastical nights are not Native American folklore, but genuine offers found every single day somewhere in his hometown, and thousands of towns and cities like it across the continent. Imagine that!
Of course, this is London, where ‘bargain’ is a word of old, unused without irony for as long as most people can remember. So 20p wings might have to stay firmly in my fantasies, but The Durell Arms in Fulham is putting in a bloody good effort offering them for 50p.
But what are they like? Well…they are what I like to call V-Wings. Which means they’re bigger, a plus when you’re paying per wing, but they’re a bloody nightmare to try and eat. And dipping? Well, let’s just say I had to throw away that shirt.
The service was…ok. The first round of wings were freezing cold but there was a Chelsea game on so I’ll let them off. The wings themselves come in three flavours, Hot (Buffalo), BBQ and Tokyo (a sort of sticky sweet chilli coating). The Buffalo sauce was really quite good, but the only one worth bothering with. The BBQ was somewhat bland and the Tokyo was practically tasteless. The Buffalo wings also come with a tiny pot of blue cheese dressing that is decent, if a little watery, but is nowhere near enough so make sure you order extra. I also ordered an extra pot of Buffalo sauce because, well, I’m a pig.
20 wings (£10) was a comfortable amount, 30 (£15) would be a feast. But the beauty of paying per wing is that you can start off with any number you like and just keep buying extra until you can wing no more. As a nice touch they also provide you with a big wooden bowl for all your bones, just so when you’re bloated, sauce-covered and have the cayenne burps, you can feel morally disgusted with yourself as well as physically.
SPECIAL MENTION – The Orange Buffalo
WHEN? Every day (no special offers)
HOW MUCH? £6 for 8 wings and 50p per wing thereafter
Not all-you-can-eat by any stretch, they don’t even acknowledge the Church of Wings Wednesdays. But my god are these wings good! This little food truck parked by Spitalfields market (the one with the massive queue outside) serves delicious chicken wings in 4 different heat levels; Original – medium heat, Woof Woof – the classic Buffalo sauce and by a country mile the best, Vincent (Man Gogh) – Very hot with a ‘fruity mango’ coating, and Viper – for masochists.
The Woof Woof wings here are some of the best in London, freshly cooked to order they’re hot, crispy (and you can ask for crispier if that’s you’re thang), and slathered in a homemade sauce that they’ve well and truly perfected with just the right amount of spice. They’re not huge, but bigger than the Drafthouse’s .
20 wings will set you back £12 here, plus 50p for every extra pot of their outrageously good blue cheese dressing, and you’ll happily work your way through 2 or 3 of these. But in terms of quality you’ll struggle to find better.