Bonnie Gull – Seafood Shack

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.

The Raw Bar

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.

Foley Street

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.

About £50 a head.

p.s.

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.

Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Coffee: London’s best cups

This guest blog is written by @dropthebeatonit , a true expert on coffee. If you have even a passing interest in decent coffee then this is a must read. Enjoy..

“Today in London you don’t have to be a little Belgian detective to sniff out a very good cup of coffee. Eggnog frappuccinos firmly to one side, your average latte or cappuccino is unrecognisable from the tasteless watery broths of yesteryear..

The Aussies and Kiwis have blown milky coffees clean out of the water with a craft-obsessed caffeine revolution. It’s hardcore. Steaming milk for 12 minutes before pouring from 8 feet above the head seems to be the average comportment of your local well-groomed barista. The bar has been set so high I can think of 20 places, easy, where you’d be overjoyed with the quality of the cup served to you. Paradoxically, the truly great coffee places are no longer defined by the coffee they sell. More than that what keeps you coming back is the location, the friendliness of the staff, the general feel-good vibes, and definitely the selection of sparkling mineral water.

The Top 5:

Monmouth
Covent Garden, W1

Inside this tiny rabbithole of a coffee shop it becomes annoying how many times you overhear people importantly telling their friends how this is the best coffee in London. But it might well be. Monmouth is the mothership. Run flawlessly by smiling knowledgeable staff who outnumber their customers 6 to 1, one of the great pleasures of London life is nursing a cup of their finest and benching it up on Monmouth St to watch the girls go by. They sell beans from all over the world, do coffee tastings, and generally keep the rad-meter cranked up high. The Borough Market outlet is bigger but not as atmospheric and more often than not full of lost Germans looking for a bus stop. They also stock Vichy Catalan sparkling mineral water. Ooof.

Milk Bar/Flat White
Berwick Street & Bateman Street, W1

Flat White was one of the originators of the antipodean coffee Luftwaffe that first dropped its bombs over London a few years back. The beans are from the Square Mile roastery and their coffee is brewed with some slow smoothed-out loving. True to the laid back lifestyle of the South Pacific they don’t run the quickest in-shop operation, but while you wait you can check out the dictionary definition of Flat White stenciled onto the wall or work your way through the world’s biggest most doughy croissant. Milk Bar is its sister outlet which achieves similar high levels of dopeness. The great thing about these two is that they’re open on Sundays, so when most of London is painfully sweating out the weekend’s poisons you can kick back nonchalant and sip a hot one while looking out onto Broadwick Street as Soho yawns its way back to life.

Brill
Exmouth Market, EC1

Read the tin. Whatever it says on it, Brill does this. More than likely you’ll come across this little gem on Exmouth Market after the dickheads two doors down in Caravan have done their best to ruin your morning when all you really wanted was a cup of coffee. Brill used to be a music shop that also served its customers coffee, but has since shifted to become a coffee shop which now pumps out incredible music. The owner is in there all the time pouring lattes and talking tunes to his loyal besotted customers. This place is great.

Climpsons & Sons
Broadway Market, E8

Climpsons makes the top five almost purely on location. This is not a slight; their coffee is great, the ladies making it look even greater and I’d cross London just for a spoonful of the homemade bircher muesli. But much like Monmouth Street in central, Broadway Market is simply a killer spot to watch the world go by. And these cats take their coffee seriously. This is the place I first learnt the difference between a double Macchiato and a Piccolo, and that if you want a Cappuccino and are struggling with self confidence, order a Gibraltar and you’ll not only get the coffee you wanted but will be surrounded by a crew of hot women blown away by your obscure coffee knowledge.

Tapped & Packed
Rathbone Place & Totenham Court Rd, W1

 These two outlets are pretty close together in the Noho area just north of Oxford St. Perhaps their greatest selling point is their own anonymity; the two shops can be identified only by the numbers 114 and 26 above their shopfronts, and their coffee cups are decorated with nothing but a lovely old school bicycle. But the service is friendly and fast, they make great sandwiches, and the décor is warm and inviting enough to prolong a quick pit stop into a long languid afternoon session on the black stuff. Tap that.”

So there you go. Consider yourself informed.

Visit this author of this at his brilliant blog: www.dropthebeatonit.blogspot.com

Keep it cosy London

The clocks have gone back and it’s chilli times in London. The dream is a country pub with a fire, the reality is crowded nooks with mad average heating.

..But it doesn’t have to be this way. Put your feet up and check out the cosiest gaffs in town:

The Mall Tavern, 71-73 Palace Gardens Terrace, Notting Hill www.themalltavern.com

bread and butter

Any self-respecting highbrow blog reader will know that quality of bread is proportionate to the standard of establishment itself. The Mall Tavern is the best, by a long way, I’ve ever had in a pub. Pantwettingly good. They also serve good beers in tankards. Beer tastes better and looks cooler out of tankard. It’s one of the best pubs in London and their food is large portioned and excellent. The Cow pie with bone marrow is quite the shiznit.

Quo Vadis, 26-29 Dean Street, Soho www.quovadissoho.co.uk @JLQuoVadis

Quo Vadis, meaning’where are you going?’

Quo Vadis opened in 1926 and has since 2008 has been owned by Sam and Eddie Hart (who also own Fino and Barrafina (most godly place ever)). Before that Damian Hirst and Marco Pierre White had a joint venture here. So the place has a lot of history. Any ghosts, however, have been well and truly banished by a refurb, leaving the place both elegant and cosy.

The chef here is Jeremy Lee (of Blueprint café fame), one of the industry’s world’s most articulate and eccentric Personalities. Quo Vadis is British in its cooking style. Read Matthew Fort’s take on it here. The bar is one of Soho’s prettiest and cocktails are on the money as Bar Chick will testify.

On top of all that it’s good value too.

The Holly Bush, Hamstead, 22 Hollymount, www.hollybushhampstead.co.uk @TheHollyBushPub

Not to be confused with The Holy Bush

I have a good friend who is the king of cosy. He’s like a cashmere jumper, and knows a thing or two about places of great comfort. So trust his well-informed judgement of this one. Holly Bush has an open fire and is in arguably the nicest part of London, Hampsted. Mazel tov.

…Self-assured

The Gun, 27 Coldharbour Docklands, @thegundocklandswww.thegundocklands.com

Overlooking the Dome

If you like your views riverside and your buildings listed, then try The Gun. The docklands isn’t many people’s first thought of top pub destinations.  The Gun, though, is a bit special and really worth a try. The views make it feel like you’re on a ship and its maritime décor adds to a sweet atmosphere. Go now for oysters, bang in season till Christmas.

Keep it chopped out and see you there..

Most exciting new restaurants in London…

Encouragingly, new restaurants are coming thick and fast in London. Some of the best chefs, restaurateurs and fresh new talent are capitalising on an ever more engaged and savvy London public.

Here’s what’s most exciting:

Ben Spalding @ John Salt

131 Upper Street, Islington, @John_Salt, Opens November 13th

This tops the list simply due to the fact that Ben Spalding was the head chef at Simon Rogan’s Roganic. Rogan is easily one of the biggest talents in the UK right now and his 2 year pop up Roganic is the most acclaimed of its type (and soon to move location). Ben recently left Roganic and has been working on a few projects such as Stripped Back on Broadway Market.

Spalding will be showing off some very rare ingredients and approaches to his cooking. His signature dish looks set to be the ‘chicken on a brick’, which you are encouraged to lick. Nice.

Bonnie Gull

21A Foley street, www.bonniegull.com, @BonnieGull, Open now

It’s difficult to know why something so simple sounds so different. When pop up restaurants are so successful that they turn into restaurants, it’s a good sign. Bonnie Gull is a seafood shack, which in itself makes it very rare in London.

There’s a really clear focus on excellent British seafood ingredients combined with a creative approach. They’re already getting rave reviews after being open for a couple of weeks. The menu is mouthwatering. I cannot wait to go, it’s exactly what London needs.

The Clove Club 

380 Old Street, www.thecloveclub.com, @thecloveclub, @itsisaac, Opens Jan 2013

Let’s hope it’s in the top tower

Isaac Mchale, Daniel Willis and Johnny Smith are founding members of Young Turks the team behind Upstairs At The Ten Bells. The three (who call themselves the “St. Vibes” crew (wicked)) have now expanded and are launching their new place in Shoreditch town hall. The town hall is currently being revamped and the sheer scale of it means that it should a really interesting space.

Coya

118 Piccadilly, www.coyarestaurant.com ,  Opens November 16th

Arjan Waney has a seriously impressive back catalogue.  Zuma and Roka are pretty much London institutions while Le Petit Maison and The Arts Club Mayfair are doing very well. He’s now turning his hand to zeitgeisty Peruvian (with other South American influences).

Waney clearly knows exactly how to make incredibly popular, modern, international restaurants. His signature is beautiful design, top quality fusion – sharing food. Coya on paper is his sweet spot and should continue this trend. There will be live bands, DJs and a private members’ club.

Square Meal says: “The whole place will have a ‘luxurious dilapidated’ feel with sumptuously distressed South American overtones, Incan colours, murals and modern metallic finishes. Coya will also include a traditional pisco bar”

Which all sounds cool and expensive. Let’s hope the crowd isn’t too wanky.

Granary Square Kitchen

1 Granary Square, @Bruno_Loubet, Opens Jan 2013

Kings Cross is undergoing a restaurant revolution and fast becoming a top dining postcode. Critics’ and chefs’ favourite Bruno Loubet is now joining the club. This will be more relaxed than his Bistrot Bruno Loubet and with a focus on the world’s best vegetables. The Western Transit Shed looks a great space, home of Central St Martins, with its own an outdoor area.

If it’s anything like as good as Bistro Bruno Loubet, then it will become a must place to go.

Get booking.

 

Dishoom Shoreditch

Despite having more curry houses per capita than any other part of London, Brick Lane is strangely one of the hardest parts of London to find really good quality Indian (/ Bengali, Bangladeshi, Pakistani) food.

You can either order takeaway from Holy Cow or go to Tayabs or Needoo Grill in Whitechappel for really good value Indian food. Brick lane is a brilliant place, if a bit Lance Armstrong, but every curry I’ve had on Brick Lane has been pretty rank.

Dishoom Shoreditch follows Dishoom Covent Garden and is round the corner from Brick lane.

Dishhom’s concept is to pay homage to the all-day Bombay cafes of the late 19th and early 20th century mainly opened by immigrants from Persia. The food as a result is ‘colonial’ – or natural fusion food. ‘chilli – cheese (on) toast’ ‘Dishoom Slaw’ are on the menu for example.

The good news is it’s brilliant.

Located on Boundry street, Dishoom is impressive from the outside. There’s a nicely lit expensive looking sign and a courtyard leading up to it. This might not sound much but such subtleties make it stand out in this part of town.

Through the front doors and it’s a beautifully lit joint, (think Zuma, E&O, Hakkasan) with kitsch but cool décor  welcoming front of house and most importantly great atmosphere. First impressions count for a lot and this was as good as I’ve had in ages. It’s what Beach Blanket Babylon East dreams of being.

The place is much bigger than expected and spread out over two floors. The top floor is prettier, while downstairs is more typical Shoreditch styling with faux pipe work on the celling. Downstairs also has an open kitchen with the chefs spinning naan like pizzas and a good cocktail bar. It may be in soft launch mode but the place is buzzing which is great to see.

There were six of us and we purposefully ordered what we thought we would be too much (it was 50% off and one our party can eat ALOT).

It was nearly all outrageously good. We ate everything.

To be clear. This is Indian Tapas. Not a curry house. The focus here is much more on grilled meats and fish marinated with limes and vinegars rather than rich creamy sauces. As a result you can and should try loads of everything.

Standouts included:

Bhel – which is crunchy puffed rice with tamarind chutney and pomegranate seeds.

Spicy Lamp chops. The hottest thing we tried. Still not that hot. Charred black but not burnt on the outside and pink of the inside. Banging.

Dishoom calamari. Tiny baby calamari, well spiced and served with Lime.

Indian desserts are an acquired taste and not mine. Also Chai is not my cup of tea, and unnecessary after a gourmand evening.

Jay Rayner in his review of the original restaurant said that Dishoom…

“feels like the answer to a question nobody is asking. That question is: where do you go to eat if you fancy Indian food but are tired of your local curry house?”

He’s wrong, local curry houses can be boring but Indian food never should be. Amazing Indian food, in a great setting with atmosphere, that doesn’t leave you comatose is exactly what many are after. This is why we have Bernes, Amaya and Trishna.

Concept restaurants can fall on their arses on a banana skin of wanky PR, general weirdness and confused chefs. If you’re going to have a concept then it must be lived and breathed and owned by the owners, chefs and waiters otherwise it won’t feel sincere. For every Pollen Street Social and Dinner there’s hundreds of Notting Grills.

Dishoom Shoreditch is a brilliant addition to the area and may have finally solved the Brick lane riddle.

It’s their soft Launch until October 20th. 50% off. Go. Go.

£25 a head with wine

Dishoom on Urbanspoon

Square Meal

Let bread be your guide

You sit down in a restaurant or bar and you know, you just know. Something doesn’t feel quite right, you’re not going to enjoy it. They’ve put you on the table by the door, men with triple winsor knots are laughing – competitively, there’s pictures of the food on the laminated menu.

You can either get out now or brave it, this place got 3 and a half stars on View London after all.

Then they bring the bread. And this, bar very few exceptions, is the acid test. As a pretty good rule of thumb, the quality of bread is going to be proportional to the food. If it’s really good, you’re going to have fun times. If it’s fucking amazing, served with > 1 type of butter then  double check the price per head …you could be in trouble.

The bread served at Noma is, probably, pretty nice

It is one of eating out’s great truisms, I assure you. Beware the stale loaf or don’t say I didn’t warn you.

p.s.

In the absence of bread order a bloody mary and apply the same logic. Fail safe

Michelin guide 2013 (early)

So the Michelin guide has been ‘leaked’ early. I say ‘leaked’ – they did list the new rankings own their own website before taking it down. PR vibes etc.

Great to see that Paul Ainsworth finally gets his first star. Simon Rogan (L’enclume) gets his second and I would put money on him becoming the 5th UK restaurant currently with 3 stars in the next few years. Pierre Gagnaire at Sketch and Micheal Wignall at Latymer, Pennyhill Park,  also get their second stars.

Full list here:

Also here’s an interesting well written article in vanity fair arguing Michelin isn’t relevant anymore: Michelin. Get Out of the Kitchen

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