Well sourced seafood prepared by those who understand it can speak for itself – and it shouts at Wright Brothers Soho – so the key challenge for the company in their second London restaurant is surrounding their exceptional food with a fitting atmosphere. And fitting it is.
Approach Wright Brothers Soho from Kingly Street and you find an imposing, formal looking restaurant. However, glimpses into the vibrant basement and open kitchen give a hint of the true atmosphere within. The restaurant sits between Kingly Street and the plaza, and is cleverly arranged over three floors to give a variety of dining or drinking options to those lucky enough to walk through either of its two doors.
Arrive from Kingly Street and you immediately enter the more formal dining area, where banquette seating and long tables offer a traditional and intimate dining environment. Descend half a flight of stairs and you find yourself in an up market oyster bar with doors onto the Court, smaller tables and a relaxed, informal air. Continue down a further flight of stairs and the true heart of Wright Brothers Soho is revealed with high table seating and an open kitchen beautifully set in a tiled basement bustling with the energy and feel of a New York eatery or Barcelona pinchos bar. Despite the potentially divisive presence of three such distinct areas the effect is coherent and enriching – largely through consistent, tasteful and understated decor – and the result is a restaurant to suit almost any diner's desire.
Dining at Wright Brothers is sheer pleasure. Not just because of the wonderful food, nor simply because it offers respite from the crowds on Regent Street, but because here is a restaurant that has clearly set out to put diners’ experiences at the heart of what they do. London restaurants can often be accused of a degree of (albeit flattering) imitation – the Parisian-style bistro, the Italian-style café, even recently the British-style modern restaurant - but Wright Brothers seem to have created an atmosphere all of their own and it's a wonderful creation.
Each area of the restaurant provides its own air and the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts – here is a place where girlfriends can meet for a bottle of Chablis, some oysters and a gossip; where friends or couples could pass an hour or two over a relaxed lunch; and where Soho’s finest can sit and carve out the future of the creative industries, all harmoniously under one roof. The staff at Wright Brothers are charming, informed, energetic and full of enthusiasm for their roles whilst the open kitchen buzzes with life and laughter to finish off an infectious atmosphere.
There is a lot you can do to ruin good seafood and very little you need to do to enhance that of quality. The quality of seafood on offer here is second to none and thankfully it is abundantly clear that the chefs at Wright Brothers understand this maxim (as you would expect with the pedigree of the brand as suppliers to the capital’s top fish joints). The menu is shorter than that of the sister restaurant in Borough Market but still offers a dazzling selection of the ocean’s riches throughout.
Entrée platters can be created from a range of half a dozen different types of oyster, lobster, clams, whelks, mussels, langoustines and many other fruits de mer. The speciale de claire oysters - recommended by a knowledgeable waitress - are exquisite; prawns perfectly cooked; razor clams divine, and the presentation and simple accompaniments spot on. Diners should not be deterred from focusing all of their attention on the first half of the menu as a thoroughly satisfying meal could be happily created from the wealth of options here, all very reasonably priced. Look into the house staples however and further delights are on offer to those seeking hotter or more substantial fare.
A fish pie, oddly often the stumbling block of seafood restaurants, is deliciously well balanced and refined – the inclusion of delicate baby red mullet to take the place of the more traditional pollock or cod an added bonus. Further evidence of fine sourcing and a light touch came from the crab with brown bread – a wonderfully lightly-seasoned and delicate meat. Ox cheek, ale and oyster pie or fish soup provide even greater substance for those seeking it, and a well-laden specials board offers imaginatively cooked catches of the day from Cornish boats. Desserts are limited but excellent, with a chocolate pot unctuous and rich, and a selection of Neal’s Yard cheeses well chosen to balance the light meals that precede them.
Well selected and crisp whites rightly dominate the short restaurant list – a mid range Sauvignon was a perfect match for the joys on the plate with light citrus and slight mineral notes complementing the taste of the sea – and those wanting glasses, or bottles, with sparkle to accompany their oysters will be delighted by the range. Wright Brothers’ own Oyster Stout also sits proudly on the menu begging to be sampled and the oyster bar allows those wanting to focus on the drink as much as the bivalves a greater selection.
The Last Word
This is seafood of the finest quality served in a restaurant alive with energy and joy. It is clear that Wright Brothers have taken everything good about their Borough Market restaurant and brought it to Soho; thank heavens that those of us north of the river no longer have to cross water to find seafood this good.