Thursday, 4 October 2012

This 'Gull makes me clam up

Bonnie Gull @Bonnie Gull
21A Foley Street

Yet another pop-up to go permanent, this time in the guise of Bonnie Gull, who previously were seen as the Seafood Shack in hackney, and after a couple of projects they are now in this set up in Fitzrovia. All their seafood is British, and responsibly sourced. It will change every day depending on what's fresh, I suppose we'll wait and see if some things will be more regular than others. Reasonably priced, great seafood restaurants are hard to come by in London, but this place certainly fits the bill. 

This is another place fairly close to me, so I was looking forward , after soo many burgers recently (all great mind you), to have some great fresh seafood. Despite knowing the area reasonably well we walked passed it a few times, even once stopping right opposite it. It's a small unassuming place, hopefully they get a sign for geographically challenged people like me. The set up inside is small with enough space for 26 people, plus a few at the 'Raw Bar' even then it's at a push, almost packed in like sardines. Be prepared to get familiar with your neighbours as there is not much room for maneuver. They have a great set up behind the bar, with a treasure chest full of langoustines, oysters, clams and whelks. On the wall is a map of the British Isles with the locations of the produce of  the day, a really nice touch than just squiggles on a blackboard. The owners have really put their heart and sole into this. The only seafood restaurant I've been to, to compare against, is Rick Stein's in Padstow, so I daren't make any comparisons as that would be too tough

This would be a fantastic place for a date, good vibe, impressive food, but people were busy tonight, and with a reservation already planned, luckily one of my drinking buddies, Mike, stepped up to the plate. It's not all bad though, I got to sit facing out to the rest of the room for once ;). The menu looks good, we went for the crab and mullet for mains; the battered haddock looked tempting but thought I'd try something a bit different than 'Fish'n'chips' at a place like this. Good value for money considering location and sourcing, most mains bordering around £14, and £17 for the whole brown cock crab. Soon after ordering table next to us got the aforementioned,  it looked good, and massive....damn food envy, would I regret my choice? I don't think they would of appreciated it if I'd stuck my lens in their meal though!

Mike goes for a manly Beetcar - yes thats a slice of beetroot on the top
Upping the stakes I have a Blacker velvet - prosecco with chocolate bitters 
Going for something different, we went for a few of their unique coktails. Their cocktails are great and keep with the whole theme of the place. Mike's beetcar with gin, beetroot, ginger egg white, andcoriander, was inspired. My black velvet with chocolate bitters was good but a bit too extravagant for me. Later the Nemo, with gin, kummel, radish and sea salt was a lot less feminine and had more of a savory flavour that I enjoyed. They also do meantime lager and pale ale, if you are being less flamboyant.
The starters arrived promptly, I ordered some Isle of Lewis Mussels with cider and Cumbrian bacon. There is an option to have these as a main dish, but you get quite a lot for starter. Mussels are great but would never be the main attraction for me. Its not until you get towards the bottom half of the bowl you fully get to experience the great cider sauce that the mussels become engorged in. Once the mussels were done with the rest of the juices were mopped up with french bread. Really fantastic. 

Mussels with cumbrian bacon

In addition to the main courses Mike also got a couple of things from their Raw Bar, a 'big whelk' which is actually enormous, and a jersey rock oyster. Molluscs aren't really my thing (something about the texture) so I can't really comment. The chest is certainly a talking point though

The Raw bar

A few tables had ordered before us, so we knew what to expect before a whole devon cock crab was placed in front of us. It really did look magnificent. This is great hands on food and the chunky beef dripping chips were ideal for dunking. No idea where they get their beef dripping from though, with no beef on the menu! I imagine mounds of 'useless' beef joints stacked up outside their back door! Our other main was grey mullet with romanescu cauliflower, bisque sauce and yoghurt  The mullet was well cooked, but the flavours of the bisque sauce didn't stand out much for me. The cauliflower  was an interesting addition, I've never had these before, they look more like small christmas trees than cauliflower, but have a nice crunch that links well with the mullet.

Devon brown cock crab
Fillet of Grey Mullet

Despite already having a 3 course meal the same day, I felt obliged to finish with a dessert, chocolate brownie with black figs and cornish clotted cream. A brilliant combination. The figs were full of flavour and the brownie was very moist, a fulfilling end to the meal. We spent just over 2 hours here, but when you are enjoying yourself time seems to flyby. Probably the best compliment you can give a restaurant is perfect timing where you are at no point checking your watch.

Overall, I think Bonnie Gull has all the attributes to be a success. It doesn't try to make itself too upmarket and flamboyant that most seafood restaurants tend to do. Only thing that maybe an issue is the space conumdrum, is Fitrovia ready for this? This isn't east London. If you can get over this, I certainly enjoyed my night, and looking for good value-for-money seafood, with an ever changing menu this is a place for you. And those cocktails will be a great kicker for the weekend. They really reeled us in, this is a great plaice.


NB - I attended a soft launch at BG, all considerations for value were taken from what I would have been paying. No doubt I'll be back and update this post.

Square Meal  Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack on Urbanspoon

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