Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack Fitzrovia 1

21A Foley Street , London, W1W 6DS

Bonnie Gull Seafood

SquareMeal Review of Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack Fitzrovia

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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7.1

Food & Drink: 7.3

Service: 6.2

Atmosphere: 6.2

Value: 6.2

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 3.0

Value: 4.0

Richard E. platinum reviewer 13 September 2013

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: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 4.0

Michael B. 26 June 2013

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: 0.0

Service: 0.0

Atmosphere: 0.0

Value: 0.0

Hubert N. 08 June 2013

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

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

BoatLady platinum reviewer 02 April 2013

Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack could be unique in being unique in London. One of a kind, individual, a one off. It's how I imagine a posh crab shack on the Maine coastline would look: a beach hut with sun-bleached clapboards but filled with linen-laid tables and grown-up glassware. The kind of place where you'd expect a few off-duty US politicians in chinos. You can almost smell the sea salty air. It was empty when I arrived midweek at 12.15pm but soon filled up enough to provide a gentle background hum without ever turning into an annoying buzz. The clientele's a mixed bunch: a few young men chatting to the bartender, a couple of older suits, a ladies' lunch gang. All very genteel and relaxed though. The menu is fish, of course! I started with venus clams, oily deliciousness, and then rather unimaginatively had the fish and chips. It was good although I wish I had tried something else as fish and chips, no matter how good, never really blows you away and there were plenty of other appealing options. Next time I'd go for a crustacean, assuming there's one on the menu which looks like it changes regularly in tune with the seasons/catch of the day. The wine list is short but sweet. A couple of crisp glasses of Albarino hit the spot for me but others might find the choice a bit limited. Service is friendly, relaxed, helpful, unhurried (at times it might need a bit of a push along but it's difficult to get het up about anything in here). If only the bill were in dollars though: £56 a head is a bit of a pinch for a chippy lunch but I suppose for 2 and a quarter hours of quiet pleasure it's cheaper than a Swedish massage and more effective. No doubt the owners are already planning a burgeoning Shack chain. Shame, but I'm too relaxed to work up a sweat about it right now.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 3.0

Atmosphere: 4.0

Value: 3.0

Mimina bronze reviewer 17 March 2013

Well, I think the term “shack” is understating it slightly, given Bonnie Gull Seafood's prices. Having said that – the restaurant was actually the size of a shack so perhaps this is where the name is derived from. More on the, ahem, intimate atmosphere later. Firstly, the food. We both opted for a whole delicious crab for the main course, which was wonderful. Silky brown crab meat mixed into a glorious goop in the shell was accompanied by the rest of the crab, some fresh sourdough bread and half a lemon – then we were given a pair of crab crackers and left to, er, crack on. Merrily bits of crab flew through the air (it was actually quite difficult to maintain any form of conversation, so closely were we concentrating on not spitting / throwing bits of shell at each other) but it was a very pleasurable kind of concentration. Oh, and I was glad they didn't offer up those plastic seafood bibs that always make me feel a bit like an extra from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. On the size of the restaurant – it was frankly, ridiculously small. We had a table in the middle of the restaurants but those poor souls whose tables were against the wall had literally an inch of space between them. I saw one girl put her elbow in her neighbour's oysters – not a euphemism – when she wasn't looking. Also, a man accidentally set his menu on fire because it was so close to the tea lights and he had nowhere else to put it. Yes, that actually happened. Fire hazards aside, crab was £18 each for a main course, so not cheap at all. Maybe it was the size of the crab? It says on the website that other mains range from £11 – £20, but I couldn't see anything below £14 on the menu (a vegetarian dish, artichokes something.) Other mains were quite highly priced, but looked amazing (fish pie in particular.) Still, I guess if you want sustainably sourced seafood in Central London you've got to be prepared to pay for it., and I'm happy to do so when it's so fresh and tasty. I'll definitely return to Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack, but make sure I have a table in the middle of the restaurant again and bring my portable fire extinguisher with me.

Food & Drink: 4.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 3.0

Matt P. gold reviewer 04 March 2013

Bonnie Gull is mainly furniture, with seemingly few concessions to humans. Reaching your chair or going to the loo involves contorting like a circus performer and getting on first-name terms with half your fellow customers. The kitchen seems not to have been designed with these diners in mind as it struggled to cope with a midweek lunch. We arrived at 1pm and gossiped for half an hour, untroubled by the waiting staff, yet even when we then turned to ordering, we were told that the kitchen was too busy. Neighbouring tables were evidently having the same problem, although it had little effect on the buzzy atmosphere. Nothing was offered as recompense for this delay. The menu is good: a wide array of fresh seafood, creditably cooked and presented, the highlights of which were razor clams and queen scallops. We cobbled together a good lunch of plates to share rather than starters and mains. The decor has a maritime feel such as I imagine you might find at one of those Suffolk villages that's overrun by Londoners with second homes. Customers were mostly silver-haired chaps in business suits. If they could make the numbers work with fewer covers, thus solving both the ktichen's capacity issues and the ‘assault course’ feel of the table layout, this would be a welcome addition to the rather thin restaurant scene in this end of Fitzrovia.

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 1.0

Patrick R. 18 February 2013

Saturday lunchtime isn't too crowded, and the service was charming and intelligent. The food is creative and quite delicious. Now, admittedly one of us did have oysters, and we disgraced ourselves with a wonderful rhubarb crumble and terrific custard. But only 2 glasses of wine. £117 for two makes you think twice about returning, though.

Food & Drink: 5.0

Service: 4.0

Atmosphere: 5.0

Value: 4.0

Michelle C. 26 November 2012

Had a spectacular meal here on Sunday. The place has so much charm and character and a lovely relaxed buzz even at 7pm on a Sunday. Freindly, helpful staff who seem really knowledgable about the produce which is all local and fresh. The cocktails were fantastic – Bonnie Mary: a perfectly spiced bloody mary ganished with a nice plum oyster. The combination was delicious. Starters were elegant withour being overly fancy – I had a wonderfully woody smoked salmon dish with orange and fennel whilst my boyfriend's combo of cornish squid with pork belly with apple puree was incredibly flavoursome and well balanced. On to mains and my rich hake with hazelnuts was absolutely delicious and pretty as a picture but I must admit to having food envy over his native lobster with garlic butter and rosemary fries. It was by far the best lobster I've had in London – so rich and sweet and cooked to perfection. We didn't have room for the fabulous sounding desserts but I'd go back in a heartbeat to try them!

Food & Drink: 3.0

Service: 2.0

Atmosphere: 2.0

Value: 2.0

Douglas G. 12 October 2012

The restaurant was stifling. It appears there is no air conditioning, though there is a rather naff ceiling fan which was not on, to cool down the over heated room. On arrival was sent, not shown, to a table and then pretty much ignored for quite a while before finally getting some attention and the menu's. Eventually some much needed cold water arrived which begun to help with cooling process. Staff member took order then came back to say what wasn't available. No bread/butter etc was offered. Food was fairly ordinary, Cullen Skink was tasty and right consistency though a small amount served with a dull slice of cold bread. Butter arrived when asked for. John Dory was O.K but not wowed by it. Shellfish main course was good though quite a small portion. Fish and Chips good size and decent enough. Quite a lot of staff about but not terribly efficient or welcoming. They may be trying to attract a young indifferent crowd with their vaguely unprofessional approach to serving the paying public. Not sure any of the party I was with would go out of their way to return.

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