London Shell Co, a canal barge that cruises from Little Venice to Camden Lock, has done much to improve the image of floating restaurants since its maiden voyage in 2017. Now this second restaurant, permanently moored just up from Paddington station, replicates the charm of dining on the water without the fear of being trapped on board a boat for three hours.
Diners enter the barge from the starboard side and step into a hull that keeps the nautical theming to a minimum, instead going for a shipshape look of clean lines, fresh linen and lots of natural light. Close-set tables take up one side of the room, though the best seats in the house are at the eating counter on the other side, which looks straight on to the canal and the surprising amount of life aquatic bobbing past.
The kitchen follows the maritime theme with a fishy menu on which 90% of the produce comes from day boats in Cornwall. That might means a nubby pair of salt cod croquettes with lobster ketchup and aioli or for the full lobster experience a whole Cornish specimen with angel hair fries and lemon mayo. We were more than content, however, with our juicy nuggets of beer-battered lobster with chip-shop curry sauce that, just like the real thing, was on the mild end of the spice spectrum.
To follow, chalk stream trout with cucumber, burnt baby gem lettuce and a new potato salad was the very best sort of English cooking, fresh, simple and flavour-forward. Hake with brown shrimp and an English pea risotto was even better, creamy, sweet and soothing. Prices of under £25 for mains are tremendous value given the quality on offer; there’s also a set lunch of two/three courses for £22/25.
The wine list naturally leans towards white wines, many made in the natural style, though sparkling wine (from all over Europe) is the speciality; we’d recommend you nail your colours to the patriotic mast with a glass of Grand Duchess own-label fizz created with Hattingley Valley vineyard in Hampshire. Homemade lemonade, made to order, is another personal touch, typical of the thoughtful service from the friendly young team.