I was up in Birmingham with work this week and managed to see the city for the first time. I took a train from Brighton to Victoria and then caught the tube to Euston, banging my head on the Victoria Line en-route.
From Euston to Birmingham, the train was quiet and the office at Snow Hill was almost empty. The city centre of Birmingham was far grander than I expected and lunch at Anderson & Hill was a spectacular surprise.
After work, my colleagues and I went for a beer in the Great Western Arcade and then walked to Bonehead. I enjoy fried chicken but the vampiric thirst that follows is problematic, especially when away from home and drinking water from a tap in the hotel bathroom.
Bonehead don’t take bookings and were full when arrived, but a waiter noted our details and sent us to the pub next door for a drink. Outside the pub, we sat and watched the street. A man in a baseball cap pulled over a policeman on a bike and my colleagues and I discussed whether he was a plain clothes officer or a concerned passerby.
After half an hour, Bonehead text to say the table was free and being full of beer, I wasn’t especially hungry. Inside, Bonehead was busy and Tom Waits played loudly through the speakers. The staff were friendly and attentive and placed our bags out back with the beer barrels to keep them out the way. Steigl was on draft and I ordered a pint, remembering when I used to serve bottles of that stuff at a bar in Clerkenwell.
Once sat down, I looked at the menu and at the surrounding tables to see what seemed popular. Most of the other patrons had chicken legs but a few had burgers. On the menu were a selection of cuts, fried and covered in a choice of seasonings; original or hot. When the waiter came over, I ordered a leg and thigh with hot seasoning, waffle fries and a side of buffalo wings for the table.
The food arrived after 20minutes, served on a metal trays and I started with the wings, which were drenched in buffalo sauce and served with a pot of ranch dressing and celery sticks on the side. The wings were crispy on the outside but the hot and juicy in the middle and the meat fell from the bones with little encouragement. The wings must have been marinaded in buttermilk because I’ve never had them so tender. Chick N Sours is the only place that come close.
When the wings were finished, I started on the leg but the meat was still too hot to bite. Attempting to do so made me salivate and sent a shower of crispy batter raining down onto my tray. To help the meat cool down, I broke the leg apart with my fork and just as with the wings, the meat fell away from the bone. Both bits of chicken were served on a piece of brioche with a couple of gherkin slices for garnish. Sauce was served in small pots on my tray, I had buffalo and something else creamy and a little spiced.
The sign of a good feed is when conversation ceases and the four of us were quiet as we ate the chicken. When the waitress came over to clear the trays away, we each had satisfied smiles and I told her that Bonehead served the best fried chicken I’d ever eaten. The mix of tender meat, crispy batter and abundant sauce were the perfect indulgent treat for a work dinner but perhaps not a date.
The bill for the four of us came to just under £70 for food, drinks and service. As well as serving excellent food, Bonehead had a great atmosphere, friendly staff and some top beers. It is the kind of place that I’ll remember fondly, even if I never go back.
If I am to return, I’ll be skipping beers beforehand.