Keen to curry favour, Alexi Duggins invites Time Out’s editor-in-chief, Tim Arthur, to take part in London’s most searing eating challenge
Let’s not beat about the bush. If you’re reading this thinking: ‘Ooh, I’m a good eater, maybe I should try this incredibly spicy challenge,’ my answer is don’t. The chilli-sauce ravaged chicken wings at Fulham’s Elk Bar are malevolence in (barely) digestible form. This is no foodstuff: it is a concoction so evil it threatens to violate reality and allow the hounds of hell to maraud throughout SW6. Do. Not. Go. Near. It.
But, if you must, here’s the deal. In return for handing over £29 (you get a free T-shirt if you complete the ‘feast’) you’re served three shots of chilli-infused tequila, horseradish coleslaw, fries, blue-cheese sauce and a platter of horrifically spicy chicken wings that are doused in a combination of two sauces. Their names: ‘Holy Fuck’ and ‘Holy Mother of God’. (Hot sauces are provided by The Rib Man. Other concoctions include ‘Christ on a Bike’ and ‘Judas is Scary Hot’) Their ingredients: naga and scotch bonnet chillies. The result: a snack so hot it makes re-enacting the vomiting scene from ‘The Exorcist’ a distinct possibility.
So here, bite by bite, is how our pointlessly macho… erm, challenging, evening panned out.
Before the first wing
Alexi: If you’re going to try this, make sure you go head to head with someone as wussy as Tim. ‘I’m nervous,’ he bleats, running into Boots for Gaviscon. I take some tablets too, but let’s not dwell on that.
Tim: Alexi produces some pills and swallows them down with his non-alcoholic fruit cocktail. ‘These are prescription drugs for my IBS. They’re pretty hardcore,’ he says. Earlier he mocked me in Boots for trying to protect my own stomach lining, and now he has pulled out some magic super drug. Damn him!
The first wing
Tim: A millisecond after biting into the first –very tasty – piece of chicken, I realise that Alexi isn’t what I should be worrying about. My throat closes and my tongue swells. I show it to Alexi. ‘Ith my tongue thwollen? It feels mathive!’
Alexi: Tim is trying to communicate something to me. I have no idea what. He is hissing like a wounded adder and pointing at a tongue that looks like a flesh-coloured sock. Also, someone seems to have let off a canister of CS gas behind my eyeballs.
Tim: ‘I can’t feel my face,’ Alexi whines, giggling maniacally. I point out that his grin is the size of the Joker’s.
Alexi: My face won’t stop leaking. I’m surrounded by so many used tissues, it’s like an art installation entitled ‘Teenage Bedroom’. Tim seems to be finding it funny until his stomach rumbles and he squeals, ‘Let down by my own arse!’
The last wing
Tim: I finish the dish from hell first but it’s a hollow victory. I’m a broken man. Alexi has lost all powers of coordination. As I get up to wash my hands, I see him resting his head on the table, weeping.
Alexi: Tim does finish first. But we both complete the challenge, making it a draw. Then we start to feel very, very weird. ‘This is like being stoned,’ Tim says, sagging. I respond brilliantly with: ‘This is like being stoned.’ ‘Wait. Didn’t I just say that?’ ‘Did you?’
Tim: As we leave the bar, I’m coping better than Alexi: ‘Am I on the…?’, he asks on the tube. ‘Am I on the? Am I on the? Wait. What was I saying?’
Alexi: The journey home passes in a blur. Unfortunately, I’m conscious of every moment of the torrid night that follows. My bum feels like a dragon’s nostril the next day. The thing I’m mainly conscious of, though? That I shall never, ever put myself through that again.
For more info, see elkbar.com.