When the people at the Crystal Palace Market restaurant heard customers saying the area needed a good wine bar, they supplied that demand by opening The Wine and Oyster Bar in the premises next door.
There French head sommelier Jean Louis Naveilhan, with over 20 years experience in high end Mayfair restaurants, created a selection that offers a range of quality wines made by small producers, most of which are organic or natural.
They teamed up with cheese expert Fabien Joly from The French Comte at Borough Market to put together a fantastic selection of cheese and charcuterie. Fabien has become the wine bar manager and was there to greet myself, Nina and our young charge Haydn who already has a broad and mature palate for a nine-year-old.
Haydn’s first shout was for Edamame with Rock Salt: “You should have some, Michael,” he said, “They’re very healthy.”
But Nina and I were more focused on the oysters and had some from Carlingford Bay, Northern Ireland – plump and meaty specimens – followed by a couple of closer to home Malden, Essex bad boys. They came with a selection of accompaniments that all went perfectly with that choicest of shellfish, and of course there was lemon and Tabasco for Nina the traditionalist.
These mighty molluscs were joined by a Prosecco for the lady and a Vin et Framboise for me – a killer combination of wine, vodka, apricot brandy and raspberry puree that was dangerously smooth and fruity.
Our mixer also knocked up a cocktail of tropical juices for Haydn.
After Fabien had talked us through the various oyster accessories he then began to talk about his love of French cheeses and meats and before long his accent had Nina, half-French herself – swooning as he spoke of Val de Loue cheese washed in wine and so soft it can be ladled rather than cut; a hard Comté made from unpasteurised milk; hams cured for 12 months before being lightly smoked, Wild Boar Saucisson, slivers of beef fillet from cattle living the high life in the lower regions of the Alps…
By now I too was hypnotised and like magic a cheese and charcuterie Board appeared with all these cheeses and meats, served with pickles, relish, walnuts and fig. With these former favourites bringing back childhood memories of long summers spent in Paris for Nina, I thought I’d have to fight for my share, but all three of us were able to enjoy these French delights with hardly any fuss.
Fabien had also suggested some excellent white wines to go with this course. I had the Pecorino, a fruity, zesty Italian that enhanced both the cheese and charcuterie, while my partner a French Sauvignon.
“Hmmmm,” she said, and I’m not sure if she meant the wine or Fabien.
The Wine and Oyster Bar does exactly what it says, and provides the best of both in surroundings that combine small tables and high refectory tables for communal socialising, where you can either sit à deux or amongst strangers who may become friends before your bottle is dry.
Stuart Oldershaw, the general manager, introduced himself and was keen to get us next door to the Crystal Palace Market that in its three years has already claimed its place at the top of the tree in an area full of good restaurants.
As we were led through we were immediately struck by the change in ambience, lighting and layout.
We went past the open kitchen where fish, fresh daily from Billingsgate, was laid out like in a good fishmonger’s, so you can pick your dinner from what you can see.
Having recently partaken in several culinary pleasures we knew we should not be lured into any starters, and that was extremely difficult because the offerings were to die for, but I will not tease you any longer by mentioning any. They are for you to discover yourself.
For my main course I chose the Day’s Special, a Dover Sole that was truly succulent, complemented with the waiter’s wine recommendation of Gavi Di Gavi, another Italian beauty. I did not want to overwhelm the sole’s gentle flavour so had sides of new potatoes and grilled vegetables.
Nina had the 28 days matured Ribeye Steak that she absolutely adored, along with a robust Rioja, and had this with french fries with truffle oil and parmesan, an exciting and very, very moreish chip. Stuart explained that he noticed many customers asking for truffle oil to douse their fries in, so decided to put them on the menu!
They had kindly produced a children’s menu and Haydn had the beefsteak that was as juicy as Nina’s, and actually far more to my liking.
The restaurant is a dichotomy of seemingly five star fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere, where all the staff are attentive without being overpoweringly so, but where you still feel like you are in your friendly local eatery. You can see that this is not just a job for the people here, but a passion.
And so to dessert…
Between us we shared Fresh Strawberries and Cream, Chocolate Fondant and Vanilla Ice Cream, and Panna Cotta with Mango and Yuzu, an Asian citrus fruit that added tang to that creamy dish.
I was easily lured into a glass of Sauternes because I am easily led, but I was glad I gave in to the temptation as it was a delicious dessert wine, then while my dining companion had an espresso to finish I had an Espresso Martini. The evening finished as it began – with a bang!
You can have breakfast, lunch and dinner here and I could honestly spend my whole life working my way through the menu that changes daily.
In a city famed the world over for its great restaurants, these two sister venues surely sit proudly among the best.
- Vin et Framboise £9.00
- Prosecco £6.50
- Sauvignon Blanc £7.75
- Pecorino £7.50
- Premium Cheese & Charcuterie Board £12.00
- Oysters £10.80
- Ribeye Steak £21.50
- Dover Sole £24.00
- French Fries with truffle oil & Parmesan £3.70
- New Potatoes with Garlic & Rosemary £3.00
- Grilled Vegetables £3.00
- Children’s Menu (Drink, main course & dessert) £7.50
- Gavi Di Gavi £7.80
- Rioja £8.25
- Chocolate Fondant £5.50
- Panna Cotta £5.00
- Sauternes £8.00
- Espresso Martini £8.00
- Espresso £3.00
Disabled Access Yes
Disabled Toilet Yes