Bonnie Gull. I do like to be beside the seaside.
Why haven’t you written it up, says Mr P. We went weeks ago now. You’re going to give it a bad review aren’t you?
I’ve been busy, I said. Not too busy to do that write up on Dinings, he says, pointedly. You’re just lazy, he says. From the safety of a pub and down a phone line.
It’s almost a pop-up in its simplicity, which isn’t a surprise, given that it started life as one in – you guessed it – Hackney, home of all things hipster. And I apologise in arrear for use of that word.
I used to live in Hackney, in another life. It wasn’t the epicentre of all things food-forward then. It never occurred to me that it might become so. A couple of decent mangal houses and the Vietnamese cultural centre. Who knew?
But now, in that well-worn trajectory, Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack has gone from East to West, to the beating heart of food-love that is Fitzrovia. Foley Street to be precise.
And the feel is very seaside shack. Clapperboard, bright colours and bleached wood, it’s a cheerful little space, with fairly cosy seating arrangements.
Given that it was practically empty, I’m not sure why we were placed right in the island of small tables in the middle of the restaurant. But no matter.
Enthusiastic service throughout, by our very lovely Spanish waitress, who, when asked to provide something aromatic and floral tried to fool me with an astringent Sauvignon Blanc, so we ended up going with a bland but serviceable Muscadet. It’s almost like not drinking.
There’s a blackboard with a map of the UK on it, where they tell you the provenance of the fish of the day. You can see exactly where your meal started, before it ended up on your plate. I quite like that, knowing exactly where it was caught. And there is a raw bar which will require a return visit as I didn’t quite fancy it on Monday, having read Anthony Bourdain’s Kitchen Confidential. In fact, I have never ordered swordfish since reading his book.
I’d describe the cooking as simple and straightforward. Nothing messed around with, which, in the case of very fish, is entirely as it should be. Mr P likes the same sort of food as me, so we decided that we would share everything. As soon as I started, I got told off, like a naughty schoolgirl, accused of having more than my allotted half of the mackerel, but that was unjust.
I can see that in future we are going to have the one person cuts the other person chooses rule, otherwise it may get ugly.
Beetroot – cured salmon. A beautifully presented dish, I thought it was a very attractively presented dish and it tasted pretty good too. Not so much of beetroot, mind. I’ve had beetroot-cured salmon before and it never really tastes of beetroot so I wonder how they actually do it. One of life’s mysteries.
I’ve never thought about food presentation plagiarism, but I give you smoked salmon at Bonnie Gull and Fjord trout at la Belle Époque, courtesy of Elizabeth Auerbach. I’ve put pictures of the two below. You decide. I wonder which one was first. But it was good and fresh and the carrot and radish worked well, as did the blobs of mayonnaise and the small pieces of citrus.
And then crab, with a side order of beef dripping fried chips, because it really needed that, as an accompaniment. In the crab shell, crab mayonnaise. Delicious, spread on the good sourdough provided. The whole grilled lobster was also good. The chips that came with the lobster were not the best I’ve ever had, mind, I prefer the beef dripping ones but that is a minor quibble. And they bring you decent melted butter in a pretty copper pot.
Simplicity is the order of the day here. The food is not messed around with. The shellfish is super fresh and it shows. This is about fresh seafood, cooked without fussiness and sourced responsibly. There is meat on the menu but really, why would you? .