WRIGHT BROTHER SOHO: RETURN OF THE NATIVE
Autumn is clearly the best time for anyone with even the slightest interest in food. Short days and bad weather means no going outside for me (I might catch a chill) unless it’s to visit the pub or a restaurant. It also means Game, Big Sunday Roasts and most importantly the Native Oyster season.
For me Oysters are up there with Jamón Ibérico as one of the great foodstuffs of the World and the Native variety one of the best you can get anywhere.
Until fairly recently it was difficult to satisfy a sudden urge to down a dozen on the half-shell with a beer or glass of crisp Muscadet. Now we have a number of places in the capital where you can pop in sans reservation and indulge oneself although in my view it’s still not nearly enough.
At the more tony end of the Oyster bar spectrum there are places like the estimable Bentley’s, J Sheekey’s and Scott’s. A little more casual is Wright Brothers who just happen to supply most, but not all, of the restaurants in London with bivalves. In addition to their Borough Market bar they’ve now opened a branch just off Carnaby Street in London’s bustling West End.
It’s a little hidden away inside Kingly Court although frustratingly you can see in from Kingly Street but can’t enter from there. Let’s hope this doesn’t limit foot traffic.
The original restaurant gets horribly crowded, especially towards the end of the week so it was nice to see the new place had a lot more room. There’s a small area just by the entrance where you can walk in and plonk yourself at a table or at the bar. Further back there’s a slightly bigger more conventional space with tables. All the action though is in the basement where you can watch your Oysters get shucked or watch your food get cooked. It does get a little hot down there so beware.
When you’re jonesing for Oysters the only difficult decision will be when to stop eating them. In my case it was after a couple of mixed platters of Natives and some extra Kumamotos. Speaking of which I’ve only ever seen this variety in the US before now but Wright Brothers import the sprats from Japan and cultivate them over here. They’re small but have a wonderful briny taste with a length that goes on and on. Of the other two varieties I tried I marginally preferred the Colchester’s to the Duchy’s but, you know, they’re all good.
In addition to the Oysters there’s a rather magnificent looking Fruits de Mer with the components available separately and some simple short order dishes along with a few daily specials.
My Razor Clams came pre-cooked and cold and though fresh there’s not really a point to these blighters unless grilled with plenty of garlic and olive oil or maybe made into a cerviche.
Whitebait and Squid were much better: accurately deep-fried and served whilst still piping hot and crisp. A tartare sauce with the fish could have been a little looser in texture but was still a decent, perky accompaniment. The other stuff going out looked pretty good too but for me it’s always going to be about the Oysters.
For afters I liked the sound of a Gelupo Lemon Sorbet but as the shop itself is only five minutes away it seemed a shame not to visit the mothership.
That’s the nice thing about the West End these days - as there is a critical mass of decent places to eat you can indulge in a bit of progressive dining. Indeed the very next day I was back at the bar of Wright Brothers with some friends, knocking back Kumamotos and copitas of Manzanilla as a prelude to a visit to Bob Bob Ricard for Vintage Champagne.
Hey, it’s Dos Hermanos’ World – I just live in it.