From Hackney Wick’s Cornerstone to Shoreditch’s Brat, several new seafood restaurants have opened in London in the past few months. They’re good ones at that, subsequently revamping London’s credentials as a serious destination for tucking into bounty from the sea. Britain, being surrounded by water, has always had good produce from just off its shores. It’s up to these restaurants – as well as the classics – to show it off.
With its peach-hued paint, and décor that supposedly inspired the dining room on board the Titanic, Neptune’s interior is gorgeous. Go for the beer-poached crayfish or the sea trout in tomato broth and you’ll see that, often, the food is too.
When chef Tom Brown broke away from under Nathan Outlaw’s wing to set up his own venture, people took notice. Now, a few months down the line from its opening, it’s clear anticipation was well-founded. Could this become the cornerstone of London’s seafood scene?
Another instance of an accomplished chef embarking on his own course, Tomos Parry, of Kitty Fisher’s fame, opened Brat to showcase Cornish seafood at its best, including (you guessed it) his take on brat – slang for turbot.
Kitty Fisher’s branches into Covent Garden with its new sibling restaurant Cora Pearl. Expect dishes like of shrimp Newberg, leek heart with smoked eel, and brill with devilled crab.
A restaurant overlooking the Thames, boasting views of Tower Bridge, and with a menu of smoked haddock kedgeree, Atlantic cod and dripping chips? Few can claim to be more British.
In a snub to the way fruits de la mer are traditionally served – involving beds of ice and silver platters – seafood comes here, quite literally, by the bucket load.
The Hackney favourite Ellory closed in March, but has seen life after death in the team’s new Shoreditch venture, Leroy. More bistro-y, and perhaps a little less serious given the lack of Michelin credit to play up to, it’s only a slight tweak on a model which presented British seafood so well.
George William Wilton opened a shellfish-mongers just off Haymarket in 1742. The oysters he sold were a massive hit, and, 275 years later at the Piccadilly restaurant his family founded, still are today.
People throw around the phrase ‘culinary institution’ as if it were a flat stone on a beach. But Bentley’s is every bit of it, from its several varieties of oysters served at the oyster bar, to its Royal Fish Pie.
Simpson’s in the Strand
For something 190 years old, Simpson’s is looking awfully good for its age, and not just because it’s had the seating replaced. What’s its secret? A diet of grilled Dover sole, Scottish scallops, and crab salad, I’d imagine.
Unless it’s game season, J Sheekey isn’t somewhere you go if you don’t like seafood, as all fourteen of the restaurant’s main courses are devoted to it. Cod, prawn, bream, sole, skate, lobster, haddock – you name it.
People tend to go to Scott’s for two things. Sometimes it’s the famous sole meunière. Sometimes it’s to rub elbows with glammed up A-listers. Often, it’s both.
Outlaw’s at the Capital
Despite its location (round the back of Harrods), Outlaw’s has built its reputation on the quality of its food – and the competence of its chef – rather than anything else. Pound for pound, it would be hard to dispute Nathan Outlaw’s credentials as the best seafood chef in the country.
This is a guest post from freelance food journalist Hugh Thomas. He’s contributed to Foodism, Time Out, Great British Chefs, and is part of British Street Food’s small team of vigilant writers. Find him on twitter @hughwrites.