As you push open the doors of Wright Brother’s in Kensington you feel like you’re walking into an elegant Parisian bistro. There is dark wood, warm lighting and vintage style French art hanging on the walls above the leather banquettes… but beneath is another world. As you descend the stairs in the restaurant you submerge yourself into a moodier and sexier environment; one of dark opulence that celebrates the mythical and the delicious. This is the Mermaid Cocktail & Oyster Bar.
The Venue & Atmosphere
Mermaid Cocktail & Oyster Bar is a moody, underwater cave like den of sultry colours and hidden corners; walls are a deep, dark green and thick gold leather curtains hang around the bar, creating private little snugs and cosy corners. Stunning marble lamps are suspended from an equally dark ceiling which shimmers as if wet. On one wall, a stone mermaid hangs between mirrors that have been artfully placed to emphasise a sense of space and brighten the room a little.
One curtained-off corner of the bar hides another tiny drinking space, encased with wood panels and windows that overlook an exposed brick wall covered in wine bottles, if there were ever a place to whisper secrets, it would be in this cabin-like room. It's not only sleek and sexy, the bar is also full of kitsch and quirks; a topless mermaid cast in neon rides a martini glass and framed vintage prints are dotted around. It’s all very chic and elegant, and above all, it's tasteful.
The Food & Drink
Though a product of the Wright Brother’s family, this is an independent cocktail and oyster bar. The cocktail list is extensive and beautifully curated by the team in house. The prices start at £8.50 and don’t go above £11, and are a mixture of classic favourites and Mermaid specials. I couldn’t resist the Mermaid Martini (if the bar is willing to give it’s name to it, it must be good, right?) which was made with Star of Bombay Gin, Choya Sake and pickled ginger, served with an oyster, for £10. It was beautifully smooth, as a martini should be, and I loved the additional gentle hint of spice from the pickled ginger; a nice alternative to an olive. The oyster on the side was smooth and creamy; the two worked well together. Later in the meal I also ordered the £10.50 Mona Lisa (recommended by the waiter) made with Woodford Reserve Bourbon, Disaronno Amaretto, apple and lemon juice, and golden syrup, served in a brandy glass with a sugar-crusted rim. This drink was rich and warming, a great end of the night aperitif and perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth.
Eager to try as much of the seafood as possible, we ordered the deceptively named petite seafood platter (£22.50) which was anything but petite. With more than enough for two to share as a main course, it arrived piled high with oysters, Atlantic prawns, whole brown shrimp, mussels, winkles, whelks, clams and cockles, with a side of bread and butter to share. We began our seafood feast, plucking the large juicy whelks from their shells and enjoying their chewy, meaty texture. We peeled away the shells of the large, succulent prawns and scooped out the mussels, dipping them generously into the mayonnaise provided.
The brown shrimp, no bigger than a thumb nail, were gorgeous, perhaps my favourite thing on the platter, with a sweetness that stood out from the rest of the offerings. The winkles were at the bottom of the favourites list, not least because we couldn’t get to them - the pesky miniature sea snails were almost impossible to remove from their shells, despite our waiter - and the lovely chap at the next table - trying to teach us the knack! We gave up all together before long, not willing to work too hard for our dinner.
On the side of our platter we enjoyed a plate of the salt cod croquettes (£7), the only hot element of the meal, which we dunked into the accompanying aioli, they were crisp and beautifully golden. For dessert (which we couldn’t resist) came a Passion Fruit Creme Brulee (£5) and a Chocolate Mousse with salted caramel and hazelnut brittle (£5.50). The creme brulee was stunning, sharp from the passion fruit and sweet from the golden sugar shell. The mousse was smooth, rich and decadent.
Low lighting and elegant decor makes Mermaid Cocktail and Oyster Bar a perfect date spot in South Ken, as well as simply an ideal place to enjoy good quality seafood and outstanding cocktails. Oyster lovers can visit every day between 5pm-6pm and 10pm-11pm to enjoy the oyster happy hour with oysters for just £1 each, and those wishing to celebrate an occasion with friends have the option of hiring a private area within the bar which is sectioned off with the heavy golden curtains.