Written by Babs Ofori-Acquah Founder, Working Girl London
Last Friday, on July 29th, was National Chicken Wing Day – yes, that is a real day! The day has been celebrated in the US since the 1970s and Wing Zone, an American franchise which started in Florida is eager to bring it to the UK. The first and only Wing Zone in the UK opened in Finsbury Park at the end of last year, and this was the perfect location to celebrate National Chicken Wing Day.
We were welcomed to the restaurant with balloons and All-American service with a smile. The team were extremely welcoming and were delighted with the number of people who came to celebrate the day with them. It was a perfect opportunity for them to launch their new menu, which allows you to find your flavour and then customise your meal. On the menu are chicken tenders, chicken wings (of course), and beef or chicken burgers. The main event though, is the sauces. The 9 sauces fit under 3 categories; traditional buffalo, flavour with heat and sweet with no heat.
To find our flavour, we started with plain chicken tenders (breaded, boneless chicken strips) and a selection of sauces from different categories; Buffalo Bliss, Garlic Parm, Sweet Samurai and Hotshot. The tenders were okay, nothing special – but the sauces were delicious! It was so difficult to choose a favourite but, because I haven’t had anything like it before, I had to go for the Garlic Parm as the winner. My friend chose both the Garlic Parm and the Sweet Samurai as his favourites. Based on this, we decided to have our next course – chicken wings – with Garlic Parm dressing, and another set with Honey dressing, as it is in the same category as Sweet Samurai but gave us an opportunity to try something new. Like the tenders, the wings themselves were okay but didn’t blow me away. It was the sauces that really made them! They aren’t cooked in the sauce but they are drenched in it after being cooked, making them sticky, flavoursome and messy – just how I like my wings! The Honey sauce was a nice twist on BBQ sauce – much lighter and a bit sweeter. Next up was the opportunity to ‘build your own burger’ Step 1: Choose beef, grilled chicken or breaded chicken. Step 2: Choose a flavour or go ‘naked’ Step 3: Add a cheese (Blue Cheese or Cheddar) Step 4: Add toppings (Mushrooms, Jalapeños, Onions, Lettuce, Tomato). Unlike most places, Wing Zone offer the cheese and toppings at no extra cost. I decided to have a breaded chicken burger with the Thai Chilli sauce and cheddar cheese. The burger was nice – the cheese and sweet chilli tasted surprisingly good together! Burgers come in a brioche bun with wedges and coleslaw on the side. The wedges had the perfect amount of spice and the coleslaw was light – a good accompaniment to the sweet sauce.
To wash down all the wings, I had white wine (there is only one option each for white, rose and red) and my friend tried the American beer, Samuel Adams Boston Lager. The wine was nice which was lucky as there was only one option, and the American beer was tasty, a nice addition to the theme. If you’re looking for a bargain, you can get 5 bottles of Becks for only £10! In terms of price, Wing Zone is very reasonable. You can get 10 wings for £7.95, a tenders meal for around £7, a burger meal for about £6 and a number of pack deals for groups.
Overall, we were not overwhelmed with the chicken in itself – it was not especially juicy or tender, however the flavours were incredible. I do think Wing Zone has a way to go to see the same success in the UK as it has had in the US. The venue, branding and location do lead you to think of Wing Zone as more of a chicken shop than a restaurant, which is unfortunate because it is certainly higher end than it seems. If they can cook the chicken so that it’s more tender, and do some work on their branding/locations, Wing Zone are onto a winner! As it stands, I think Wing Zone is a good offering if you are in the local area, and, as they have a hot wings challenge, it could be fun as a team social or something a bit different. However, there are better places for wings in London so I wouldn’t travel too far for Wing Zone.