Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Oystahs and Crystal, Y'all

In the second of a series I've titled 'take your wife somewhere she wants to eat so she won't complain about walking around a housing estate all afternoon' (the series kicking off at the Big Easy in Chelsea), we trekked back to the Kingsland Road for a visit to Pamela, erstwhile home of Southern-style specialists Decatur, for a spot of weekend brunchin'.

Named after a Street in New Orleans, Decatur was started by owner Tom Browne 'as a celebration of food I couldn’t get here'. And, after contriving to miss them both at their pop up at Mother Kelly's and their stall at Druid Street market - where an endless stream of grilled oysters populate my Instagram on a Saturday morning - I was determined to finally track them down. Auspicious timing, as it later transpired.

While the brunch menu doesn't list their Kentucky style beer cheese - disappointingly for someone who could subsist on beer and cheese (and often does) - it does feature a solid roster of classics with a Louisianan twist that include bananas foster french toast, crispy veggie hash and steak and eggs. 

They also have a whole section called 'biscuit station' (the freshly baked American type, and not related custard cream or jammy dodgers), as well as a bottomless brunch offer that includes as many mimosas and bloody Pamelas as you can manage during your meal.

Tempting as it was (nothing says Sunday, or heartburn, more than a stiff vodka and tomato juice), it was impossible to resist the charms of iced chicory coffee, served sweetened with cane syrup and a splash of milk and finished with a shot of banana infused Jamesons for good measure.

Originally used to 'stretch' the coffee, chicory root is now a common addition to a New Orleans style cuppa joe and the addition of the sweet fruity whiskey here provides the perfect foil for its bitterness. This cocktail was bananas; Gwen Stefani eat your heart out.

As I have pontificated at length on this blog many times, raw oysters don't really do it for me, but a starter of half a dozen of their famed grilled oysters to share- topped with butter, garlic, pecorino and hot sauce and served with chunks of sourdough for mopping up the briny juices - were sweet, tangy little nuggets of joy. 

While purists may baulk at the idea of not just cooking an oyster but smothering it with cheese and chilli, it's not just me who has good things to say about them - just after our visit, Time Out bestowed first place on their list of London's top 100 dishes to theses very bivalves. And after tasting them it's hard not to agree. (Timeout confirmation unrequired...I never choose cooked oysters but these were outstanding - TE).

To a Brit, biscuits and gravy Рessentially scones served with a peppery béchamel sauce made with a roux of flour and pork fat and studded with odd lumps of sausagemeat - might seem like a strange concept. I was an early convert, after going to a branch of Rax on my first trip to Florida as a child and discovering the delights of the breakfast buffet piled with strange things such as corn grits and shards of crispy bacon, that I could pile up on puffy little pancakes and douse in maple syrup without a second look from the waitress; although the rest of my family looked suitable disgusted.

Here biscuits are paired with sausage gravy and fried chicken, served with a token scattering of redundant greenery that only serves to highlight the fact everything else is so gloriously saturated with butter. Thankfully, any guilty feelings are fleeting, counteracted by the effects of the banana whiskey. The chicken -  tender boneless thighs, with a carapace that shatters pleasingly as you bite into it – is pretty much on par with the glorious birds being fried by Carl Clarke a couple of doors down. Very high praise indeed.

Named after the town of Breaux Bridge - which has been named 'la capitale mondiale de l'écrevisse' or, more mundanely in English, the crawfish capital of the world, The Ewing's Eggs Pont Breaux also came on a bed of fluffy biscuits. This time they were topped with crawfish etoufee, a spicy seafood stew, accompanied by eggs with perfectly oozy yolks. Pretty much perfect brunch fare.

It wouldn't be brunch N'awlins style with out a plate of freshly fried beignets. Bought to the South in the 18th century by French colonists, these pillow-shaped yeasted fried pastries became so popular they were declared the 'official state doughnut of Louisiana' in 1986.

Traditionally served, buried under a flurry of icing sugar, these three squares of puffed up perfection provided the final gilding on the lily. And while a cafe au lait may have provided a traditional accompaniment (there are no hot drinks available, so grab your caffeine fix before you get here), I 'made do' with the wonderful Tiny Rebel Cali American pale ale.

On getting our bill, our charming waiter told us that the year long Decatur residency - after they were initially only supposed to be there for three months - was finally looking likely to come to an end. Something that has now been confirmed on the Decatur Instagram page. Not all bad news though, for all those craving that Southern fix, they are still serving at Pamela until December 23rd and there are more projects planned for 2017.

But for now, there is still time to treat yourself to an early present - a platter of fine oysters and a fine view of their wall of Pamelas. As Ms Anderson herself said; 'I'd rather be looked over than overlooked'.

Decatur @ Pamela Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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