Thursday, 16 June 2011
Cordon Du Chap: Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
London SE1 9AD
Cordon Du Chap (out of a possible five) : ❁❁❁❁
Kicking off the award we have the first of (I hope) many good reviews. Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House in Borough Market is a fantastic mainstay off one of the liveliest slices of the capital’s food scene. Nestled alongside Monmouth Coffee House and perched opposite the smoky, chorizo selling barbecue of Brindisia this purveyor of fine molluscs is a welcome sight to a weary shopper who has seen just about enough boudins, cured meat, cheese and roti de veau to last a lifetime!
As you can imagine I had a productive morning at the market, I had a list of things to buy but as is so often the case, I ended up straying away from it. I had been in the market, trying samples of fresh local produce and testing fruit and veg for firmness when I felt my stomach let out a faint moan. Smells of frying bacon mingled with mulled wine started to make my mouth water and I realised that it was time for lunch!
I would like to say that I stumbled onto Wright Brothers but unfortunately I am a creature of habit and truth be told I had been there a couple of times before. However, in previous visits I had confined myself to a pint of London Porter and half a dozen Fine Claires! Good oysters are not hard to come by in London and therefore I think it would be difficult to base a review on such a limiting collection of shucked shellfish. Therefore, I have waited until now to give my review as my meal on this occasion was slightly more varied than on previous sittings.
One of my favourite things about this restaurant is not only its location but also the clever balance that it strikes between smart and informal. When I was there a fantastic mixture of city stock brokers and market shoppers mingled to sip ice cold Champagne, gobble fat oysters or large platters of fruit de mer whilst the open kitchen buzzed with activity of multiple orders. Then there were the great, unreserved unwashed who occupied themselves with their respective luncheons at the lengthy oak bar which straddled the whole restaurant. It was a Thursday (the new Friday some say) and the place was packed but a helpful waiter helped me find a lone perch at the bar and immediately helped me to a cold glass of Meantime London Porter – a masterful brew made by one of London’s best brewers.
I thought I would stray into unknown waters. I had never had cooked oysters and had been told by many that they were not worth the effort of the chef, however it was a flavour sensation I was yet to experience so I decided to order the exotically titled Oysters in the New Orleans style. I was presented with three tantalising oysters which had been crumbed and then deep fried until golden brown and a generous helping of Tartare Sauce. I can imagine traditionalists harrumphing at the mere thought of this dish but that did not stop it from being utterly delicious! The Oysters were wonderfully briny which went well with the piquant, gherkin and caper laden mayonnaise. This method of cooking, I suppose, was a homage to the Po’ Boys of the Deep South and I thought how good these oysters would have been between two crisp slices of toast, some shredded Iceberg Lettuce and some more Tartare Sauce (Food for thought indeed!).
I went light for my main course as I feel that solo gluttony is a rather unattractive sight and I had a reputation to uphold (however slight it was) – it wouldn’t do to be a Mr Creosote on this occasion! I opted for the traditional fish soup on this occasion which came with some very crisp toasts and a generous portion of both gruyere cheese and rouille (an emulsified hot sauce flavoured with garlic and chilli). I wish I could judge restaurants merely on the quality of their fish soup because so many can’t seem to get it right. Luckily, this was not the case this time. The soup was thick and smooth with a wonderful flavour from a homemade fish stock and fresh seafood. As with all traditional fish soup there was a hint of aniseed which reassured me that they had added a splash of pernod. There was also a wonderful taste of fresh parsley which added another dimension to the soup and kept it clean and cut through the richness. The toasts were crisp, the gruyere fresh (ie it had not been hanging around too long and allowed to dry out) and the rouille punchy. All in all a great bowl of soup.
So what is there left to say but that my bill was brought speedily and with the minimum amount of fuss! I hope I have inspired you to take a trip there yourselves, the food isn’t fancy but it is fresh and well prepared. The ambience is fantastic and I imagine that it gets quite jolly in the evening when the city breaks for supper! It is not that cheap my meal with one drink came to £18 but I felt that it was worth every penny and there is nothing wrong with treating yourself to a bit of decadence now and then. So hats of the Wright Brothers for a fantastic lunch and a pleasant way to start a string of restaurant reviews rated to the rigorous standards of the Cordon Du Chap