Even the greatest seafood aficionados can struggle with the unsavoury sights and smells of raw, unprepared fish, so the concept of combining fishmongers and restaurant has always been an ambitious undertaking.
Yet the capital’s third Fishworks (there are others in Marylebone and Piccadilly) seamlessly blends the two with a space that combines the maritime charm of the English coastline with the sophistication of a central London eatery – wet counter and all. Marble table tops, gold fish-scale tiling and a glitzy oyster bar are contrasted perfectly with rustic hand-scrawled chalkboards, nautical fabrics and rope trimmings to create an environment that is both refined and relaxed.
Oysters are reasonably priced and hard to resist, served classically on ice with shallot vinegar and Tabasco, fresh in from Brixham Market that morning. Were it not for the starters that followed we would happily be back for these alone with a glass of fizz.
The highlight of our meal, however, was undoubtedly the hand-dived scallops, sautéed with white wine and garlic butter and topped with breadcrumbs and Pernod. They smelled of freshly baked garlic bread and were so delectably creamy that we demolished them in total appreciative silence.
Main courses were less memorable but enjoyable nonetheless. Seared tuna was fresh, perfectly cooked to order and coated in a mixed seed crust. The catch of the day, Dover sole, came served on the bone, the simply grilled fish delicate and flaky, its subtle flavour pointed up with a lemon and parsley butter. For something punchier, try the bouillabaisse, a hearty aromatic stew served in a copper pan with hunks of grilled bread.
Desserts comprise a selection of familiar favourites such as apple crumble, Eton Mess and a good selection of ice cream and sorbets. Sadly the chocolate cake substituting for the usual sticky brownie was dry and flavourless, but lemon tart was a redeeming zesty palette cleanser with perfectly thin pastry and a raspberry sorbet on the side that’s the perfect balance of sweet and sour.
Situated in the heart of the West End close to half a dozen theatres, FishWorks is ideal for pre-theatre dining which you can enjoy with a clear conscience thanks to the restaurant’s commitment to sustainable fishing practices.