Wright Brothers have finally launched their South Kensington restaurant, but are the oysters as fresh in out west?
You might not have heard of Ben Wright and Robin Hancock, but chances are, if you eat oysters, you’ve probably had at least one sourced from their Cornish farms. They’ve combined being both producers and restaurateurs and now, they’ve finally come to Kensington to open their fourth London restaurant. It’s conceived on an ambitious scale, replacing the age-old La Bouchée. Not only does it have a seafood restaurant, but a stand-alone bar, The Mermaid, lurking in the basement. So is it any good?
First impressions are excellent. The ground floor restaurant is stylish and not a million miles away from its predecessor, offering a lingering suggestion of Gallic flair. The Mermaid, meanwhile, is even better, offering comfortable booths and snug bar-side seating where you can order a cocktail and a half-dozen oysters before dinner. These – whether naked or dressed – are some of the best in London; a particular highlight are the Kilpatrick and Spanish varieties, featuring pancetta and chorizo respectively. Washed down with a clever spin on a Martini – a ‘Martinez’ – this more than justifies the new restaurant.
As for dinner itself, it’s certainly in ‘very good’ territory but perhaps needs a few more weeks before it can truly be called unmissable. Starters of smoked salmon and moules marinière taste delicious and are undoubtedly as fresh as they get, but at £13.50 and £9.75 each, they ought to be. A special of cod was near-perfect, as was a half lobster, and a side of chips with flawless béarnaise was a cheekily seductive addition. The choice of desserts, though, was shruggingly perfunctory, with crème brulee and chocolate mousse, a couple of the old warhorses featured.
No complaints however about the wine list, which is comprehensive at all price levels and offers a good number of the cheaper bottles as 500ml carafes. For a seafood restaurant, it’s pretty good on reds, not least an excellent New Zealand Pinot Noir from the Johnson Estate. Overall, then, this is a more than worthy addition to the Wrights’ stable – and it has the potential to be even better in time.
56 Old Brompton Road, SW7 3DY, 020 7581 0131; thewrightbrothers.co.uk
Words: Alexander Larman