It’s September in London and the sun is still shining! Actually, we have had a rather good Summer apart from the obligatory downfall here and there. Normally, I am on my way to work, having just blow dried my hair, and left my umbrella at home! It also makes for good conversation when I get to the office. The British do love to chat about the weather and I am not quite sure what we would all talk about if it was consistently good.
When the weather is so glorious, eating outside in London is not an easy thing to do. Hardly any restaurants take outside reservations because the weather is so unpredictable and, apart from anything else, there just isn’t the space. New York does a far better job with endless restaurants and bars on rooftops. The minute that the sun comes out in London, or the rest of the UK for that matter, that’s it! Everyone runs (almost literally), to the nearest outdoor bar/restaurant to score a seat that might allow one to enjoy a night in a balmy evening.
A couple of weeks ago, and seeing as though the summer seemed to be coming to a close, I thought it imperative to make use of this strangely good weather and book a table at the much talked about Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack in London’s West End. Started by two bonnie lads, Alex Hunter and Danny Clancy, who apparently hated the typical stuffy restaurant, they created a place less formal and a bit more relaxed. You can’t actually book outside but, if there is room, they will seat you there (like everywhere else in London, which often means getting somewhere super early to get a good spot). It’s not actually a café, but more like a smart/casual fish restaurant. The inside is very nautical with white wooden benches and lots of blue ‘stuff’: napkins, trinkets, pictures on the wall, etc. It kind of makes you feel like you are in a small but perfectly formed restaurant on the south coast of England. With just 24 covers, the interior on this particular evening was empty as everyone was outside. But, there was one table left when we arrived. So, The Beard and I parked ourselves on the last outdoor table. Perfect!
Having just read Anthony Bourdain’s ‘Kitchen Confidential’, I was happy that we were there on a Wednesday night. If you don’t know what I am talking about and are interested in restaurants, seriously, it’s such a great read and a real eye opener!!! But, the long and short of it is that, for the freshest fare, fish should only be eaten in restaurants on certain days of the week (fish doesn’t get delivered at weekends). Wednesday is a good day so we were ‘safe’. Although, to be fair, this wouldn’t apply to fish restaurants of this standard.
To kick things off, we shared a couple of Dorset Blue Rock Oysters (grade 2). They were utterly delicious. I hate the really big slimy ones, but these were little corkers. They had been shucked, removed from the shell, and were super fresh. Next, we both opted for the Scottish langoustine and Dorset crab bisque with croutons and chive cream. It was heavenly – rich and silky, full of flavour, yet, not too over powering. For my main course, I had Sea Bass, chorizo, broad beans, coriander, lime, and sauce nero. It was a marvellous combination of ingredients that all worked harmoniously. The Beard went for the beer battered North Sea haddock; beef dripping chunky chips, shack ketchup, and mushy peas (basically posh fish and chips). The batter was light, golden, and crispy and the haddock – fresh and succulent.
We accompanied our meal with a French Rosé – Sasha Lichine – Le Poussin, Pays d’Or and, at only £22 ($35), was seriously good value (good enough to naughtily have a second bottle).
Our evening at Bonnie Gull was the perfect way to end a wonderful British summer – eating delicious fresh fish, sipping ice cold Rosé, all of which was done outside watching the world go by! The staff was very friendly and knowledgeable out their produce, talking with us about shellfish seasons and origins. Although we experienced Bonnie Gull on a warm summer evening, I think it would be just as enjoyable on a cold winter night tucking into a hearty bouillabaisse. I will definitely be coming back soon, whatever the weather!
Dinner for 2, including wine, was £115 ($190).
Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack
21A Foley St, London, W1W 6DS
0207 436 0921
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