It’s time to say farewell.
To strawberries and cream and folks lying out on the grass wearing nothing but their underwear.
An English summer is a curious instance. Waiting for it is like playing hide and seek with a rambunctious four year old. It can be plum boring searching for it- and then- just as you’re about to call it all off, it emerges out of nowhere and pulls on your hair.
A few weeks ago we had a startling appearance of some Indian summer in London. Balmy nights and days where your fringe sticks heavily to the side of your face.
We couldn’t bring ourselves to get a car and trudge to the relative disappointment of the ‘seaside’ ( see our day trip to Brighton- nb, when it comes to beaches The Hungry One does have an expectations hurdle to overcome care of his years as a lifesaver on Bondi. He now has a strict definition of what constitutes a proper beach). And the lank air meant we couldn’t bear to face the tube.
It was a weekend that called for cool carafes of rose coloured wine and bivalves lolling on ice (despite the fact that oysters are at their best in the winter months, we Australians have it bred into us that Christmas calls for celebratory seafood, and that falls smack in the middle of summer).
So on this sunny day I was craving pints of prawns and glossy mayonnaise. And there was only one place we could imagine going.
Luckily the Wright Brothers Oyster and Porterhouse is within a seven minute stroll of our front door.
It’s a boisterous place that fronts onto the bustle of Borough markets. On a Thursday, Friday and Saturday it’s relatively slammed with revelers crowding around stools and barrels, nudging up against the bar and slurping sturdy porters and oysters.
On an early Sunday lunch, when the rest of the market is abandoned, it’s much more civilised.
What Wright Brothers specialises in, is oysters.
Originally one of the UK’s most respected wholesalers, there are now three restaurant outposts in the empire; this porterhouse in Borough, the oysterhouse in Soho and the Ferryboat Inn in Cornwall.
If you love oysters, it’s divinity. And if you don’t enjoy them yet, then this is the place to be converted.
The oysters of the day are written up on blackboards . It’s a geography lesson writ in chalk. The ones that sing out are Maldon rocks, Dorset rocks and Speciale de Claire from across the pond. The best way to approach it is to talk to the informed floorstaff, quiz them on what is shining and order a mixed dozen to share. You’ll thenget four of three different varieties so you can plot a path through their briney depths. These are quality bivalves and you’ll pay appropriately for them, at around £30 for a dozen. Add a slice or two of their malted soda bread, spread thickly with butter and it’s heaven.
From there it’s hard to go past the sheer novelty of a pint of prawns (£17.50). A pint (or a half pint) glass stuffed full of cold cooked crustaceans, heads, tails and all. They’re jammed in like a bloated Christmas stocking. There’s a tub of egg heavy mayonnaise for dipping and a finger bowl to bathe your nails in when all your hard work is done.
A special of crispy battered squid is everything it says on the label. A sprightly seasoned crust protecting soft triangles of squid. There are cheeks of lemon, more mayonnaise and a tangle of fresh leaves.
There’s Guinness on tap and the Hix Oyster Ale for those who fancy a pint with their prawns, but for us, it’s a carafe of pink wine, frosty and clean.
This is a joyfully unpretentious place. And it’s one where the experience is made even more charming if the weather is fine and you can nab a seat around one of the barrels out the front and slowly pick your way through cold things from the sea.
Though, now that the weather is turning one of their beef and guinness pies, with oysters on the side for you to gently poach inside is as comforting as time on the couch with a blanket.
Though beware- it can get crowded inside, and the heat of the grill where oysters rockerfeller and razor clams dance can bring a vibrant flush to your cheek. Mind, that might be just the thing you need now that winter has wound its way back.
Wright Brothers Oyster and Porter House
11 Stoney St Map
Camberwell, UK SE1 9AD
(020) 7403 9554
Tube: London Bridge