For one thing, I'd been to a menu-testing (yes, I know, it's a hard life) at co-owner Scott Collins' MEATLiquor earlier in the year and thought everything was pretty much spot on, and figured that if the food was as good as it was in beta it would only get better with time.
For another, whatever your feelings might be on the burger cult that has had London in its sweaty clutches for the last eighteen months or so, there's no denying that Collins is a canny businessman who seems to have the Midas touch when it comes to peddling nouveau junk food, so why shouldn't his fried chicken joint be as big a smash as his burger bars? Combine all this with the fact that his partner in this venture is all-round food know-it-all and social media darling William Leigh, and surely you have the recipe for a finger-lickin' success?
Well, yes. You do. Wishbone, in Brixton Market - the covered grid of avenues which together with adjacent Brixton Village has stolen Bermondsey Street's crown as the capital's hippest restaurant strip - is just great. Split over two colourfully-decorated floors, Wishbone pays knowing homage to south London's myriad jerk chicken shops without resorting to patronising pastiche.
The menu is concise but offers enough choice to allow for variety on repeat visits (which, having been once, I imagine most folk will want to make). The free-range fried chicken, using Cotswold Whites from Aubrey Allen, is served as a quarter, half or in a sandwich and if the meat is slightly dry, it's made up for by exceptional flavour - actually of chicken, imagine that! - and a deliciously crunchy, oil-less batter.
Wings and thighs come with a variety of imaginative toppings; I have become dangerously hooked on the Thai thighs, boned, rolled and battered before being tossed in a tamarind dressing and topped with mint leaves, red chilli and crisp shallots. Buffalo wings are worth ordering for the accompanying sauce, studded with chunks of blue cheese, alone. Sides can be hit-and-miss; black-eyed pea salad and potato salad both proved bland, but deep fried mac 'n' cheese - because how else do you improve cheesy pasta if not by dipping it in breadcrumbs and deep-frying it, right? - is a thing of evil genius.
What I most like about Wishbone however, even more than the food, is the attention to detail. Even something as simple as a can of pop is served with care - chic glasswear, ample crystal clear ice-cubes, a neatly-cut slice of lemon - by unfailingly enthusiastic staff who manage to pull off the very rare feat of being extremely cool but not too much so for school.
Moreish, fruity hot sauce and lip-smacking chilli vinegar are provided on every bright formica table along with eminently-practical wet-wipes for the inevitable sticky fingers. Price-wise Wishbone is fantastic value - a vast quarter chicken is just £5.50, sides all £2.50-£4.50 - and if I have one complaint it is that portions are so large that even, say, a quarter chicken and a portion of thighs is too much food for one person. Perfect for sharing though, so just take a friend or two.
I wasn't alone in spotting that chicken would be one of 2012's big food trends, but I'm glad that my early faith in Wishbone has paid off. This is fun, fantastic funky chicken - and worryingly for my waistline, only a leisurely fifteen minute stroll from my flat. I can't be the only resident of SW9 who's counting their clucky stars.
Wishbone, Unit 12 Market Row, Brixton Market, London SW9 8PR Tel: 020 7274 0939 www.wishbonebrixton.co.uk
Posted by +Hugh Wright