The effort to offer glamorous but affordable midrange dining options such as Bubbledogs is a recent development here, says William Leigh, chef and co-founder of fried chicken restaurant Wishbone.
Fried chicken is something of a cultural phenomenon in London, a particular favorite of those in search of a cheap late-night snack on their way home from the pub, who may scoff at Wishbone’s chicken sandwich, which is almost $10. But unlike Chicken Cottage and KFC, prominent chicken chains on Britain’s high streets that have been maligned for using low-grade ingredients, Wishbone uses free-range Cotswolds chickens.
Leigh’s restaurant is the newest addition to Brixton’s old covered market in South London, a microcosm of the city’s many international flavors. Wishbone is across from a Mexican restaurant and a few doors down from the popular sourdough pizzeria Franco Manca.
This is my first time venturing to Brixton, and I manage to get lost. A smiling man selling flowers outside the subway station gives me directions and seems to approve of my restaurant selection, which I take as a good sign. When I finally arrive at Wishbone around 7 p.m., the upstairs dining room, a cool, industrial loft space, is already busy.
Hip-hop and rap music provide the backdrop to this venue that offers what some London bloggers have dubbed “dude-food.” But though there are a few tables full of men with barbecue sauce on their fingers and baskets of wings picked clean, I’m not the only girl in the place.
I end up sampling a bit of everything off the relatively small menu and am surprised by the range of international takes on fried chicken. I eat all of my unexpected but tasty Thai thighs paired with tamarind dressing, mint, chili peppers and shallots. But my clear favorites are the Buffalo wings — some of the best I’ve had in London — and deep-fried mac and cheese, which is sinfully rich and gooey.
As I gingerly lick my fingers, I think about how much this city — once known predominantly for its newspaper-wrapped fish and chips — has to offer diners. From its Michelin-starred fine-dining establishments to its local gastropubs, London has become one of the leading culinary capitals in the world.
With so many options, it may be hard for some to understand why these intrinsically low-cost food types have become so popular. But when you look more closely, it’s pretty simple.
Everyone loves comfort food.
Mackintosh is a special correspondent for The Washington Post’s London bureau.