It was a special and unexpected treat to visit The Wolseley on my last day in London. The original plan was to meet at Richoux at Piccadilly – and thank the food gods that we didn’t! I have only just this moment realised (while researching Richoux and writing this paragraph) that this restaurant is HORRIBLE. It’s a chain of restaurants and I have visited the one in St. John’s Wood – and swore never again.
As I exited the Green Park tube station, I called DC to see where I should be heading (despite having lived in London for 3 years, I still have an abysmal sense of direction!) He suggested going to The Wolseley instead, and that it would only be a 30 minute wait for a table! I have tried to book this restaurant (unsuccessfully) for my past two trips, and here we were with an opportunity to finally go and eat the famous breakfast at The Wolseley! It was already 1.30pm … but there’s never really a bad time to eat breakfast, is there?
The interior of the restaurant is cavernous, and simply exquisite. The site was originally commissioned by Wolseley Motors Limited as a showroom, and then Barclays Bank acquired the building when Wolseley Motors went bankrupt. It was finally taken over by Chris Corbin and Jeremy King, two of London’s most successful restauranteurs, and transformed into a restaurant in 2003.
After a short wait at the bar with a very nice Bloody Mary, we were sat at one of the tables in the bar area, where you are not charged the requisite ₤2 ‘cover charge’ as you are in the main dining room. The idea of a restaurant cover charge sounds a bit preposterous to me, but we are in London after all, and sometimes these things happen.
Their breakfasts are renowned, so rather than ordering from the (quite varied) Main Course section, we opted to order lots of different starters and ended up staring it all. I’m not sure why, but as I write this, I realise that all of the dishes we ordered are making me wonder about their origins. I love fines de claire oysters, but don’t know where they come from. Why is a dressed crab dressed? Why is Hollandaise sauce called Hollandaise sauce? Here, I shall share some fruits of my random research with you…
The first thing that caught my eye on the menu were oysters. I made a beeline for the Fines de Claire, as always, whilst DC preferred something more creamy, and he was recommended the Loch Ryan Natives. These were actually superb and I almost preferred them – perhaps I have to reassess my oyster preferences…
The oysters were served with un-toasted, crustless and buttered brown bread – how very English! The red vinegar and shallot sauce was nice, but served in an inappropriately narrow vessel which had to be tipped to acquire a suitable amount of vinegar.
Interesting fact #1: ‘Fines de Claire’ doesn’t actually refer to an area of production, but rather, a method. The ‘claire’ refers to a salt marsh pond, where the oysters are kept over one or two months, with a maximum number of oysters per square meter, before being sold.
Interesting fact #2: The name is derived from “steak à la tartare”, a dsh popular in 19th and early 20th centuries. It refers to the original practice of serving it with tartare sauce. Continue reading