Sometimes the best and worst thing you can say about a restaurant is that “it’s good”. But if your restaurant is part of the ever-growing and super popular MEATliquor chain – the home of our favourite burger, the Dead Hippie – hearing that something was merely “good” is probably like a knife to the heart. Not “the BEST” or “awesome!”? Well then you might as well pack up your brioche buns and bacon bits and skedaddle.
I imagine that is probably how CHICKENliquor feels, constantly living in the shadow of its bigger, brighter, meatier MEATliquor/Market/Mission siblings. CHICKENliquor was originally a chicken joint called Wishbone, based in Brixton Market, until it was bought by the MEAT conglomerate in 2014. Remaining in Brixton Market but with a new name and a slightly altered menu, CHICKENliquor hatched into the world and I imagine the MEAT bosses just sat back and waited for the applause. But did it come?
Unlike its MEAT brethren, there’s been very little buzz around CHICKENliquor. Even on Twitter the branch is noticeably quiet, while tweets from MEATliquor are ten a penny. But ever the optimist, I decided to pop down to Brixton to see what all the non-fuss was about.
Korean double fried boneless bites (£6.50)
First off we had the Korean double fried boneless chicken bites, which came with a sauce containing fermented chilli. The chicken was soft and quite tasty, even if the bites seemed to be more batter than chicken. The sauce was heavy on the soy and the bites had a moderate spiciness but nothing overpowering. They were slightly crispy but the sauce on top made them an extra bit squishy, I would have preferred them to have a more crunch. They were topped off with lots of spring onions and pickled daikon. Probably not as good as the wings in Beer in Buns, but what are?
Buffalo Chicken burger (£8.50)
There are only four burgers on the menu (one of which is a vegetarian Halloumi burger) so I plumped for the Buffalo Chicken burger, which consisted of a fried chicken fillet and red onions topped with hot sauce and a blue cheese dressing. The decent slab of chicken fillet was really soft and juicy with a nice spicy coating. It came with shredded iceberg lettuce for a little crunch and although I couldn’t really taste the hot sauce, I loved the creamy blue cheese dressing. Overall it was a pretty nice chicken burger. It was tasty, not at all dry and delivered exactly what you expected. It will never change the world but there was nothing to dislike. Yeah, would eat more.
Dirty Chicken burger (£8)
My friend had the Dirty Chicken burger which, sadly, I didn’t manage to get a picture of but it looked much like the burger above. (It’s on the top-left corner of the tray of the first pic). It contained a fried chicken fillet simply topped with mayo, lettuce and red onions. As with the Buffalo chicken burger it was tasty and juicy with a refreshing crunch from the iceberg lettuce. We agreed that we would eat it again but probably wouldn’t rave about it the next day.
I should point out that the final chicken burger on the menu, that we didn’t actually order on this occasion, was the Tower Block (£8.50). This is probably the signature burger at CHICKENliquor as it had the usual fried chicken fillet but also came with cheese, jalapenos, slaw, Russian dressing AND a hash brown. It sounds immense, however I really hate hash browns so couldn’t bring myself to do it. Sorry guys! Next time, eh?
Joining our burgers on the standard issue MEATliquor tray were also a few side orders, that went a little bit like this…
Cheese Fries (£4)
The cheese fries are essentially a bucket of your bog standard fries with some Mac n Cheese sauce poured over the top. That’s it. They were fine but certainly not the best fries I have ever had. I couldn’t help thinking that if we were in MEATliquor, these babies would’ve been served in a flatter dish and topped with at the very least, some actual melted cheese and some bacon bits to boot. Well, why not? It definitely would have helped their cause.
Tobacco onions (£3.50)
These just tasted like fried onions to me. I couldn’t really taste the tobacco smoke but they were nice little crispy onions and did the job (of onions).
Mac n Cheese (£4.50)
Now you’re talking my language! The Mac n Cheese doesn’t come in a stupid boring bowl, but rather as breaded, deep fried cubes served with a Marinara sauce. And they are almost as good as they sound. The Mac n Cheese tasted just like standard yummy Mac n Cheese, but by covering it with breadcrumbs and deep frying it you lost the unctuousness of the sauce, which is one of it’s best assets in my opinion. And I personally don’t think that serving them with a cold Marinara sauce adds anything to the flavour. However, I won’t deny that they were tasty and I could probably eat a ton of them. I’m still not sure about the tomato thing though.
Skip to the end…
Now although this review may seem a little despondent I don’t really want it to come across that way. There are obvious tweaks that CHICKENliquor could make to improve on the existing menu, such as the fries and the chicken bites, but I want to make it clear that the food was still good and I would go back the next time I was in Brixton.
I think the issue that people have with CHICKENliquor is that it’s just not as stupendously delicious as the menu on offer in MEATLiquor and so they feel let down. The fries are a little lackluster, the burgers are only fine and the atmosphere in the place doesn’t smash you in the face with grime and swagger like you get in the MEAT joints. I was also a little surprised that some of the chicken options served in MEATmission and MEATmarket aren’t on the menu here. Where are the Monkey Fingers or the Bingo Wings? It seems odd to include a restaurant as part of your gang and not share dishes that have obviously been a success in your other venues.
In CHICKENliquor’s defense, although it probably doesn’t have the satisfying, hedonistic filthiness of MEATLiquor we need to remember that we’re dealing with a different beast here. I think if a chicken burger dripped down your arm then you probably wouldn’t eat it and would call the Health Inspector instead. Therefore, it’s fine as it is. Maybe we shouldn’t judge everything with MEATLiquor’s greasy yardstick?
Still hungry? Maybe you’ll find something equally finger-licking in our London burgers section, including our review of the donut burger from Red’s True Barbecue.