Earlier this year I tried ‘herring – three ways’ while staying with friends in Stockholm for midsummer celebrations. It was a revelation. So good I literally and drunkenly made a song and dance about it. So where to take our Swedish aficionado pals in London? A new seafood shack, with head chef Luke Robinson (Fifteen) at the helm, of course.
I’d never been to a seafood shack before. To me a seafood shack conjured up images of blue and white checked tablecloths, baskets of food, lobster pliers, bibs and napkins. So, in a corner of Fitzrovia, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. As soon as we walked in we realised that this was far classier than a basket and bib joint. It’s definitely snug, encouragingly busy and feels very British.
The celling is adorned with ship’s bells and there’s a map showing where the day’s catch is from. Nice touch. The loos are signposted ‘clams’ and ‘winkles’, although when I went, there was a mix up and I saw a ‘winkle’ in the ‘clams’. I tried to explain this to the Swedes but I’m not sure they understood.
The short menu changes daily depending on what’s been caught. There is a raw bar at the back which has three varieties of Oysters (Jersey, Portland, Loch Ryan) langoustines, razor clams, winkles and more. At the helm of the raw food bar is Jeff, who skilfully reeled us in with his knowledge of Oysters. His Canadian accent made him even more convincing. It speaks volumes about the culture and standards of a restaurant when the staff are so well informed and passionate. Our oysters were were spankingly fresh and each type remarkably different from each other.
Luke Robinson is devoted to using British ingredients and favours rapeseed over olive oil. Our catches of the day included sea bass, plaice and hake. Placie was perfectly cooked with a classic beurre noisette. Sea Bass had a cheffy crust, adding an enjoyable texture. On the sides we had brocolli and skinny, herby fries – really good.
Grace Dent said of Bonnie Gull that you when you’re there you feel as if you’re on holiday and I’d have to completely agree. One of our group even said she felt like ‘she was in Notting Hill’ (the film). Though she’d had a lot of wine.
I love the fact that there is a place in London, with a menu dictated by what’s freshly caught. The real benefit here is to the customer. Not only do you get the freshest seafood, but you also have a dynamic menu which keeps it interesting for next time you come back. Bonnie Gull has brought a little corner of the seaside to London and the result is a charming place with as fresh seafood as you could wish for.
Chef and author of the Kitchen Confidential Anthony Bourdain reveals that you should never order fish in a restaurant on a Monday. Bonnie Gull is closed on Mondays.