LIKE Marmite and the ouevre of Robbie Williams, oysters divide opinion, and strongly.
For some they are the perfect expression of pure foodiness, something that is best eaten quivering, dressed only with the smallest squeeze of lemon or (if you must) a dab of Tabasco. For others they are snotty little gobs of horror. I fall into the first category, and so it is with fanfares and rejoicing that I read that Rowley Leigh’s much-loved Café Anglais has opened an oyster bar.
They’re selling half a dozen Carlingford Rocks for a reasonable £7.50, Maldon Native No 2s for £16.50 a half dozen, and a tasting plate with 12 of the little beasties for £23.50. Add a spot of Picpoul de Pinet (£5 a glass, £11 a half-bottle and £21 a bottle – all the wines in the oyster bar are available in half-bottles) and you are away.
The new Café Anglais bar, of course, joins a growing list of London restaurants that have fallen in love with the beautiful British bivalve. Bentley’s, the classic Mayfair oyster bar, was rejuvenated in recent years by Richard Corrigan, whose shucking skills are legendary, and Scott’s on Mount Street (also in Mayfair) was also given a modern twist by Mark Hix. Over in the City, we have the Runner at Green’s on Cornhill, with its spectacular crustacean display and glasses of Laurent Perrier champagne to ensure that your lunch goes out in style. For those willing to make the trip south of the river, Wright Brothers in Borough Market is one of the best in town, and you can wash your oysters down with London-brewed porter, just like they did in the days when they were a staple of London’s poorer classes.
Le Café Anglais, 8 Porchester Gardens, London W2 4DB; telephone: +44 (0)20 7221 1415, web: www.lecafeanglais.co.uk.