On a day that most of the UK were out basking in the 39 degrees of sunshine, I decided to venture to a part of London I had never previously visited, for a rare treat of a three-course lunch at Bonnie Gull. Part of a duo of ‘Seafood Shacks’, the Fitzrovia restaurant, can accommodate possibly 25 covers, and with large windows, and white and blue interiors, it felt much like a deck on a boat on the Mediterranean, which I am sure intentionally set the scene for the white table clothed seafood filled menu with different species sourced from throughout the UK.
Upon entering the restaurant, the cosiness and simple interiors made me feel at ease, and that feeling was unfortunately quickly disrupted when approached by a waitress, who did not seem to know how to crack a smile, and with an expressionless face asked “Can I help you?”, making us feel like unwanted guests who had accidentally wondered off the street and into her home. I also add there were a total of two tables already occupied, w informed her of our booking time, and were soon after seated. I watched her interaction with a French family who entered the restaurant soon after, and they were met with the same glare. I am not sure if it was a relief or not that the absence of a smile was not personal.
It is unfortunate that the waitress set such an negative first impression, because what followed thereafter was three courses of awesomeness. We got talking to the French family on the next table, who were locals and strongly recommend that we try a Pre-Starter, the Avocado mousse, white crab and almonds (£7), and so we took their lead and it turned out to be an excellent start to our meal.
To start we ordered the Soy marinated Scottish mackerel, with pine cuts and glazed shiitake (£11), and the Scottish sea trout with squid ink aioli & puffed wild rice (£10). The mackerel gently cooked, the skin lightly crisped, and the flesh literally melted in my mouth. The usual fishiness of mackerel subsided by the tang of the soy, and the nuttiness of the pine nuts. The sea trout in contrast not only was presented like art, the flavours meshed harmoniously too. The cousin of salmon, sea trout is one of my favourites because it is mild and versatile allowing it to work particularly well with the aioli. Both dishes were absolutely delicious, and really had me anticipating the main event.
For the mains I opted for the Looe hake, heritage tomato and lobster risotto (£31), and the Schiehallion battered north sea haddock with beef dripping chips and mushy peas(£18).
All courses so far were absolutely delicious, but this was by far favourite course of all. I am admittedly a sucker for aesthetics, and often buy food with my eyes. As far as I am concerned, the best of food looks good, and that follows through on a equal footing with flavour and taste. Both dishes did, and was a perfect end to an amazing lunch.
One of the great things about seafood is that it is so light, that you can consume a lot of it and not feel quite as uncomfortable, as you would consuming meat. That said, I had to admit defeat after my three-course lunch, plus bread, and though I would have loved too, could not fit in a dessert, to my disappointment.
Bonnie Gull also allow corkage, at a cost of £15, and so we brought along a delightful wine from Bordeaux to accompany our meal.
It felt quite bitter sweet at the end of our meal because as someone who loves restaurants, and eating out, when such a talented chef and wonderful concept is let down, but the front of house team, it is a real shame, as it can really make or break your experience when paying a fairly considerable amount for lunch. As well as the glum waitress, I also noticed a waiter pop out for a cigarette, and returned to serve food without washing his hands.
I removed the service charge, and probably would not return to this particular branch of Bonnie Gull again, even though the food was amazing.
If you like seafood, I would definitely recommend you check out this concept, but perhaps try the branch in Soho?