Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wright Brothers Soho: London's Oyster Kings

'From sea to table, and everything in between' — Wright Brothers acclaimed seafood restaurant and raw bar in Soho offers diners an impeccable array of oysters, shellfish, day boat sustainable fish and fruits de mer in the heart of London's West End. Wright Brothers was started in 2002 when brothers-in-law Ben Wright and Robin Hancock started a business delivering oysters to London's top hotels and restaurants. Three years later, they acquired the lease of the Duchy of Cornwall Oyster farm on the Helford River, where they now produce their own oysters and mussels. Their first London restaurant, Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House opened the same year in bustling Borough Market, followed by The Ferryboat Inn Restaurant at Helford Passage in 2009 before launching Wright Brothers Soho Oyster House less than a year ago. 

A Wright Brothers original, Robin Hancock

The menu offers diners the finest, fresh day boat fish and shellfish from sustainable stocks, mainly sourced from Cornish fisherman, with oysters coming direct from their own Duchy Oyster Farm on the Helford River in Cornwall, and other farms in the British Isles and France, always ensuring their "sea to plate" philosophy. The Duchy of Cornwall Oyster Farm, situated on the Helford River in South West Cornwall, is an ancient private fishery, part of the private estate of the Duke of Cornwall, HRH The Prince of Wales. Wright Brothers cultivates and harvests over 5 million native and pacific oysters a year, making the Duchy Oyster Farm one of the largest oyster farms in the UK.

Vintage gold lettering on an old mirror above the selection of fresh seafood 
which is nestled on beds of crushed ice, Wright Brothers Raw Bar

Whole crab is on the Raw Bar menu - a posh addition to any platter of fruit de mer 

Executive chef David Gingell, previously of Terroirs and The Wolesley, has created a menu featuring sustainable Mottra caviar with brown toast and crème fraîche, market fish tartare, winkles, whelks, Atlantic prawns, Cherrystone clams and sea urchins with sourdough soldiers. They also serve organic smoked salmon that's smoked at Belvelly Smoke House in Cork, the oldest traditional smoke house in Ireland by master smoker Frank Hederman. The salmon is bathed in smoke from Beech wood until it's acquired the distictive and delicate flavour that makes it so unique.

Wonderfully fresh and plump whelks, or bulots, as they're known in France

Handsome Langoustines at a pricey £3.75 each!

Sea urchins and a pint of Atlantic prawns are also popular items on the raw bar menu

The restaurant is spread over three floors: a basement dining room with high table communal seating; an open-plan kitchen on the main floor where diners share in the experience of the chefs at work; and a main restaurant with oyster bar opening onto the courtyard of Kingly Court, not far from bustling Carnaby Street. The interior was designed to evoke the atmosphere of an 18th century oyster bar, with details such as reclaimed wood panelling that covers the ceiling, a dark oak-finished bar and a patinated zinc crustacean display with an aged Verano mirror. Ribbed halophane Venetian glass lamps with antique triple-braided cables hang above the bar which is surrounded by six handsome eagle claw art-deco stools, comfy claret leather Chesterfield banquettes and designer-weathered wooden tables and chairs. An enormous candelabra with weeks of melted wax holds a place of honour on the staircase that leads to the Raw Bar. The place just oozes character and charm.

An enormous candelabra holds a place of honour on the stairs leading to the Raw Bar

The view looking down to the Raw Bar on the lower level

Funky exposed Venetian light bulbs on long wires hang above diners

Diners at Wright Brothers Raw Bar can sit along the counter 
or at long communal wooden tables

Our shared communal wooden table in the Raw Bar

The evening we arrived at Wright Brothers Soho, we were seated at a long wooden communal table in the Raw Bar, which was located on the lower level of the restaurant, with a great view of the oyster shuckers and all the action in the open kitchen. Presented with a handsome leather bound wine list, we selected a bottle of Muscadet Sèvre & Maine sur Lie Vieilles Vignes AOC 2009
which arrived chilled on ice, which we knew would be the perfect pairing with our oysters and fruit de mer which we know we would be ordering to start our Wright Brothers seafood-fest.

Wright Brothers Soho leather bound menu

The fabulous seafood menu

A list of special cocktails are displayed on a large chalkboard

Our bottle of Muscadet Sèvre & Maine sur Lie Vieilles Vignes AOC 2009
chilled on ice to with our fruit de mer

Glass of muscadet

Fresh warm chewy bread and butter

Wright Brothers spectacular Fruit de Mer platter with two kinds of oysters, 
whelks, razor clams and small brown shrimp

With a spectacular assortment of fresh seafood to choose from, one can customize a platter of fruit de mer with any kind of delectable creatures on the menu: we decided on half a dozen oysters, razor clams, whelks and tiny English brown shrimp. Shared among three of us, it was a sumptuous start to a delicious dinner.

Half a dozen Carlingford oysters

Tiny English brown shrimp

We followed with a big pot of Moules Marinière and Pommes Frites, Fish Soup with rouille, gruyère and toasted baguette, Whitebait with tartare sauce and Frank Hederman Smoked Salmon with onions and capers. A self confessed addict to salmon of any kind, it was a real treat to be able to sample Frank Hederman's renowned smoked salmon. A delicious but expensive evening, Wright Brothers was worth the price, with the enviable selection of top quality seafood, friendly staff and casual atmosphere — it was a pescatorian delight!

A silver bucket of Moules marinière

Pommes frites, the perfect side dish with moules

Fish soup with rouille, gruyère and toasted baguette

Flash fried whitebait with tartare sauce

Frank Hederman Smoked salmon with onions and capers

The Wright Brothers’ empire is expanding, such that even if you can't make it to one of their three London restaurants, you can buy small jars of their potted shrimps, smoked mackerel pâté, mayonnaise and tartare sauce, online. 


The Wright brothers’ empire is expanding - you can now buy mini pots of their potted shrimps and smoked mackerel pâté as well as mayonnaise and tartare sauce, online

Wright Brothers’ Fish Pie
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy executive head chef of Wright Brothers Soho, David Gingell

14 oz smoked haddock
14 oz organic salmon
1 1/2 oz grated parmesan

For the fish cream:
4 oz butter
4 oz flour
4 cups whole milk
2 bay leaves
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
The skin from the smoked haddock
English mustard
A hand full of parsley
2 egg yolks

For the mashed potatoes:
4 lb Maris piper potatoes
14 oz butter
1/2 cup whole milk

Bring the milk, garlic, haddock skin, onion and bay leaf to the boil and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Melt the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan, then add the flour and cook until it is light brown and sandy in texture. Slowly add the milk, beating constantly a bit at a time. Cook for 20 minutes on a low heat.
Finish with mustard and parsley season to taste.

For the mash, peel and boil the potatoes in salted water until they are soft enough to fall off a sharp knife, and then pass using a fine sieve or ricer. Fold in the butter, egg yolk and milk season to taste.

To finish the pie, cover the bottom of a baking dish with the fish cream. On top of that put the salmon and haddock. Cover the fish generously with more fish cream. Top with the mashed potato and grated parmesan, and bake for 20 mins at 400°F. Garnish with parsley and serve immediately.


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