I’m not the biggest fan of “foodie events”. Blogger dinners? Sure, you get to meet some new people and put a drunken face to the words and photos. Supper clubs? Fine by me, although I prefer restaurants and pop ups. But those money grubbing shit shows that charge you £50 for a rack of ribs, two drinks and the privilege of mingling with the town’s self-appointed fooderati? Please.
So it came as a slight surprise (to me at least) that London Wing Fest was superb on every front. When I heard about a London Buffalo wing showdown, I was obviously never not going to go, whatever my misgivings. But I certainly wasn’t expecting to enjoy myself as much as I did – which was to the point that I fell into some bushes coming home.
Let’s rewind to the premise. Eight of London’s best wing slingers, each preparing two types of wings – classic Buffalo and ‘wild’, or anything goes. Each punter gets four wings per trader – two of each, plus whatever accompaniments the vendor tries to bribe you with. Doing maths that even my frazzled brain can handle, that’s 32 wings a head, or one very full numpty.
The price? Nabbing an early bird ticket, £25. Twenty-five fucking pounds! That’s less per wing than any restaurant I can think of and probably cheaper than the vile things Domino’s churn out. Even if you’re less quick off the mark, full price was £35 – still pretty reasonable.
Of course, you end up spending a fair bit more than that – beer was £5 for a pint of Punk IPA – but there were some nice extras, like two welcome drinks, a bottle of Frank’s to take home, and entry into a couple of food challenges. The venue in Dalston was well chosen, busy enough to give Wing Fest a buzz without being at all crowded. Even the sun managed to be coaxed out. Verdict? Steal. Of. The. Century.
On to the wings. There were lots of wings, including plenty from newer operations that I was really excited to try. The likes of House of Wings, Randy’s Wing Bar and The Joint joined reliable if unspectacular Red Dog Saloon and a few others. Some were better, some were worse, but none totally hit the mark.
Except for the mighty, mighty Orange Buffalo. Quite simply, these are (until further notice) the best wings in London. They’re crisp, moist, meaty, and sauced to perfection. The cooking and preparation is so spot on its unreal and I honestly can’t remember tasting better back home.
Every last detail is attended to, from the homemade ‘Woof Woof’ wing sauce – which elevates the classic Buffalo flavour with a perfect amount of tingly heat – to the otherworldly blue cheese dip. Hell, the guy I met when Orange Buffalo first opened at the Truman Brewery a couple of years ago is still manning the fryer. That’s passion and dedication.
So I’ve got little hesitation awarding my first full marks to Orange Buffalo’s wings. They fully deserved to sweep up at Wing Fest (their intriguingly cheesy ‘wild wing’, pictured below, also triumphed) and you should really go try them right now.
As for the event itself, you might have to wait 12 months until the next incarnation, but keep an eye on whoever organised it – they know what they’re doing and put on the kind of shindig that reeks of people that actually give a shit. I hope they don’t jack up prices, because as it stands, it’s a wonderful experience and equally wonderful value.
If I wanted to moan, I’d say that I’m a bit perplexed as to why Sticky Wings didn’t get the call (maybe they did and couldn’t make it?), but forget that – I haven’t ever cooed over a food event to this extent.
There have been other exceptions to my general cynicism. Hawker House elevated Street Feast to a new level, effectively reconciling its obvious profit motive with a quality user experience. Similarly, the Great British Beer Festival has to be experienced at least once and is enjoyable in its own, peculiar way. But the gold standard now is London Wing Fest.
And as for the wings themselves, Orange Buffalo is going to take some beating.
Wingin’ It Verdict
Orange Buffalo – 5/5
London Wing Fest – 4.5/5