I’m totally going to blame jet lag for not remembering Butchers Social when my mum suggested lunch in Henley-in-Arden recently. Not the sort of jet lag that makes you wake up at 4am; I mean the jet lag that affects those of us with a love of good food, whose circadian rhythm may be back on track but whose stomach still yearns for the food of their holiday destination. My head knew it was lunchtime, but my heart wanted the glorious burgers of Melbourne or £3.50 plates of Michelin-starred noodles from Singapore. Failing that, Mum lured me to Henley with the promise of ice cream, but then we found Butchers Social.
For those that missed the first iteration, Butchers Social began as a pop-up in an old butcher’s shop on Harborne High St, which stuck around longer than I think anyone expected but everyone was thankful that they did. Whilst a fairly extensive refurb has happened and in its place, reopening as Harborne Kitchen, the dream of Butchers Social and those wings didn’t go away…it just moved to the town of Henley-in-Arden. Which is technically a small town in Warwickshire, and on the way to Stratford-upon-Avon, but with its B95 postcode, it totally counts as one of ours still.
Henley-in-Arden always seems like the kind of place that’s build for proper english summers, perhaps because the only time I seem to go is for ice cream and there is precious little on what I expect is the high street. There are, though, lots of places to eat; a collection of cafes, the well-respected though relatively new Cheal’s and a bunch of pubs I never remember then name of but are pleasant. Having exhausted the charity shops, including one that seemed to be selling clothes at full retail value, Mum and I went in search of lunch. For anyone that ever doubted the legitimacy of A-boards as advertising, let me tell you, it was the one outside Butchers Social that made me realise where we were. Okay sure I was trying to take a photo of the funny sign about coffee, but it worked and we went in.
I’d be lying if I told you I had any plans to order from the main menu because it was clearly always going to be about the chicken wings, after all it’s what Butchers Social is famous for, round these parts. Because my tastebuds beat my sense of reasoning I ordered the soy, ginger and spring onion chicken wings, and of course had to have the salted caramel wings too. Two portions of wings totalling 1kg is a bit extreme, this was clear madness on my part and why I ended up going home with a doggy bag. I know everyone bangs on about the salted caramel wings and they were delicious, but I found them kinda sickly after a while – I would totally order them again but with someone who would help me out by sharing the dish, although having them cold the next day was a winner. The soy, ginger and spring onion chicken wings are probably the best wings I think I’ve ever eaten and I really like fried chicken. The salty yet slightly sour earthiness of the soy sauce and crispness of the skin was superb. I am struggling to convey how much I enjoyed those wings, just know they were fantastic.
My mum had the lobster salad which was on the specials too, and her exact words were “well, this is delightful” which I take to be a very good sign because, for as much as my mum likes salads, I’ve never heard her call one delightful before. I tried a bit and I can see why. Lobster rarely appeals to me because it always seems like an unnecessary faff and whilst playing with your food can be fun, if I wanted to work this hard for my dinner I’d bother to cook, but this was indeed delightful, light and not at all messy. Unlike my wings, though thankfully a bowl of wet wipes are provided so you can make a mess safe in the knowledge you’ll be able to clean up after.
A final note about the service, which was attentive and friendly. I’d totally missed the bit about chicken wings being half-price on Saturdays in January, but we were reminded and this was after I’d ordered myself two portions, so probably good they didn’t tell me before. That said, they would’ve been a good deal at full price…and certainly enough to lure me back to Henley-in-Arden, which is turns out is only about a half hour train ride away from Birmingham city centre. Which is nothing, not for wings like these. Go, go now, and take me with you. Or bring me some wings back.
And I still got my ice cream.
Butchers Social, 97 High St, Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire, B95 5AT
Disclaimer: Food was provided by the venue which my mother paid, in full, for everything because she is awesome. I left a tip, because I try. Also, that lack of apostrophe, I’m just going with what they do.