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21A Foley Street
020 7436 0921
On a warm summer’s day, few things beat cracking into a whole Selsey cock crab and a bottle of chilled Picpoul at one of Bonnie Gull’s sanded wooden benches on the villagey corner of Foley Street. Not that there’s any downside to venturing into the “cosy but bright” dining room with its maritime blue-stained wood, checked tablecloths and nautical bric-a-brac for a steaming bowl of bass and clam-laden bouillabaisse or bubbling crab lasagne with lobster béchamel. The kitchen isn’t built on high-spec shellfish platters or Champagne-flamed langoustines, either – humbler dishes such as plaice almondine or hake with squid bolognese moussaka show real skill, and no hint of Bonnie’s roots as a pop-up. Service is chirpy, prices are refreshingly tight for such “fantastic fish”, and the white-dominated wine list is built for seafood (top pick: spritzy Basque Txacoli). We prefer skipping pud for a second round of oysters.
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21A Foley Street
020 7436 0921
Goodge Street Tube Station 423m
Oxford Circus Tube Station 447m
Courtauld (U.C.L.) 144m
University of Westminster 207m
Mon-Sun 12N-2.45pm (Sat-Sun -3.45) 6-9.45pm (Sun -8.45pm)
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 4
Back in the good old days, when I was young and care free, you could stand on the North Bank and a night on the lash with a fish supper left you with change from a tuppeny bit, at any proper chippy you could always get a good bag of batter bits.
Those days may be long gone, but at the Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack, they understand that, along with the cod and the chips, you need that extra helping of deep fried batter. Nothing in it, just the battery goodness, still glistening with a coating of fat. The restaurant sits on the sight of the late lamented Back to Basics (well, sits on half the site: the other half is boarded up like a Northern seaside town's high street). I always remember B2B for its utterly nutty Polish waitresses, and the one area that could do with a little work is the waiting side.
I know it is called waiting, but I'm not sure it means that the guest should be kept waiting, but that you, as a waiter, wait on the guest. Maybe that is why our Septic cousins call them servers, as that is the job: to serve. Anyway, whatever they are called, with us being the only guest for most of the time that we were there, a little more attention wouldn't go amiss.
This aside, it is a great place: we sat outside in the last of the summer sun, but inside it does look much like a seaside shack, although perhaps a few lobster pots hanging from the ceiling and brass barometers on the wall would help to transport you from Bloomsbury to Brighton beach. The menu is all fish based, with a sole veggie in there too. So if you want meat, look elsewhere. We wanted fish. Specifically one that had been coated in batter and plopped into fat hot enough to drop from a machicolation, along with big, thick chips and mushy peas. The batter bits were a bonus.
To pace ourselves, we shared a plate of razor clams: five of the largest examples I have ever seen. It is almost impossible to get these gorgeous molluscs completely clean and grit free, but they did damn well here, and mighty fine these fellows were. But nothing as to the main course: the fish and chips.
Heston may spend days preparing his batter, before he rams it all through a fizzy drinks maker, but he ought to come here to see how they do it. The batter is there to do two jobs: firstly to cover the fish so that the fat doesn't hit it and so the fish steams and second to give a crunch to the dish. This was as damn near perfect a battered fish as I've had for many a year. The chips too were the proper thick cut variety (none of your poncy “French fries” here); crunchy on the outside, fluffy within. Just what a chip should be, but soften isn't.
As the next day was a school day, we avoided the wine and stuck to soft drinks: a very nice pale ale from the Camden Brewery. The bill was a modest number, and one definitely worth indulging for the batter bits alone.
Food + drink: 5
Great food, wonderful oysters from the old trunk and a very clever wine list. Its informal and excellent, small and buzzy. The clue is in the word shack !
Food + drink: 0
Use to be one of our favourite seafood joints in town when it was “Back to Basics” Under new ownership now really tiny menu and horrible service. So bummed to have lost a great restaurant to have it replaced with this poor menu and poor quality staff
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