The Wing Kings pop-up at Sentinel Brewery

The Wing Kings are all about soul food with hearty comforting dishes including seasoned chicken using ‘Mamas secret seasoning’, mac ‘n’ cheese, cornbread and sweet potato pie.

The man behind The Wing Kings is Olu Babalola, an ex pro-basketball player who’s using his talent in the kitchen instead of the basketball court.The Wing Kings

I went along to one of The Wing King pop-ups (their 3rd to date) at Sentinel Brewery on Shoreham Street, where Olu delivers different menus each time celebrating the best of Southern soul food. On this occasion, he was taking on the challenge of catering to the biggest numbers I believe he has to date, there were around 50 at our sitting.

With no table reservations we took our spot in the middle of a long table and looked forward to meeting new people and chatting about the food! We struck it lucky and had very food-filled conversations with David and Amy.

Wing Kings Sentinel Brewery

For this pop-up, the three course menu (£15 each) included:

Starters

Louisiana style gumbo – An aromatic, tasty broth filled with seafood, smoked meat and vegetables

Mains

Mamas seasoned chicken, mac ‘n’ cheese, cornbread, candied yams and collard greens

Dessert

Sweet potato pie

There was a buzz of chatter as diners began to arrive and live jazz set the tone for a chilled out Sunday afternoon. As a sociable dining venue, the Sentinel works well and it has the advantage of having their great beers on tap too.

After a bit of a wait the dishes of gumbo began to arrive from the kitchen, I was looking forward to an authentic bowl of gumbo bursting with seafood and smoked meat. The portion was on the small side in my view and I didn’t find any seafood in my portion. The flavours were good with subtle spicing and smokiness from the sausage. I’d just have liked a bit more and some of the promised seafood!

Wing Kings gumbo

For the mains we were going to get to enjoy some of the famous Mama’s seasoning on the buttermilk marinated chicken, together with a side of indulgent mac n cheese and greens. The chicken was beautifully tender,  I wanted more seasoning though as most of my chicken tasted, well of just of chicken. It was cooked to perfection but needed that boost from a few more shakes of Mama’s seasoning or a dipping sauce on the side so you could spice up to your tastebuds.

Wing Kings chicken

The mac n cheese was gooey and creamy and I definitely felt it was doing my soul some good. The crumbly cornbread was decent but unfortunately the collard greens and sweet candied yams were overcooked and too soft for me. I am guessing this might have been to due to the numbers being catered for and pressure in the kitchen.

We rounded off the meal with a slice of classic sweet potato pie and cream, which we were lucky to get as I believe they ran out! The flavour surprised me as it was not as sweet as I expected, you got warmth from cinnamon and a pleasing contrast of the smooth sweet potato filling against the crisp shortcrust pastry.

Sweet potato pie Wing Kings

I think Olu did a sterling job to cook the number of dishes he did, as it was a pretty epic challenge. We were the second sitting and he’d already cooked for similar numbers at 3pm, with the total served standing at 120. There’s always learning to take away from all experiences, which is how we grow and get better at what we do. My recommendations here would be to keep putting in the passion and enthusiasm into what you love, be a little more generous with portions and add more seasoning and spice to elevate those soul food flavours.

The Wing Kings have more pop-ups planned and the next one is at Sentinel Brewery on the 19 November, where there will be chicken and waffles on the menu. Then there’s a special Thanksgiving supper on the 23 November with traditional dishes of turkey and pecan pie.

Find out more about The Wing Kings

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