What can you tell me about Bonnie Gull?
Bonnie Gull previously existed as a pop up shack in east London's F. Cooke pie and mash, or as a residency with Wild Game Co in M Manze's pie and mash emporium in Chapel Market and as Bonnie on Sky, a collaboration this summer on the rooftop at Skyroom in London Bridge. Previous incarnations of Bonnie Gull have now ceased to exist as they take up their permanent home in central London in the shape of a seafood restaurant.
Where is it?
They have taken over the old Back to Basics site, previously a neighbourhood fish restaurant in Fitzrovia set back in from the bustle of Mortimer and Goodge Street. The restaurant is teeny tiny, perhaps seating around 20 at a time. Done up not surprisingly like a seafood shack, the room and floorboards are painted a welcoming creamy white, with a blue and white awning outside. However there are no fishing nets and buckets in sight, the room is understated and generous smiles and greetings from the staff make us feel right at home.
Who's it suitable for?
The team's philosophy is to use 100% British produce which has been ethically sourced. They believe their food should be simple, fresh and affordable, so anyone who loves a tasty fish supper, and who cares about supporting our British fishermen should be happy. The clientele seemed young and friendly, the restaurant is small enough to hear other people’s conversations and soon we were chatting away to the table next to us. Probably not the place to come if you prefer your privacy.
Where should we meet for a drink first?
On the same road is the Crown and Sceptre, with comfy, battered sofas, dark green walls and an eclectic décor of animal heads and Victorian lamps. It draws a local crowd and is rarely too busy to get a spot at the bar. Four real ales and a cocktail list that changes seasonally means you’ll always get a decent tipple to set you up before dinner.
If you’re looking for something more stylish Dabbous round the corner on Whitfield Street has a cocktail bar in the basement that many don’t know about – pop in for a Saké, saké good price? (£8.50), their cocktail comprised of Bacardi Superior Rum, Plum saké, dandelion & burdock, kaffir lime, manuka honey and lime, softened with egg white.
And where should we sit?
The restaurant is so small that there’s not much choice really, but if you can try, get a seat against the wall – we sat in the middle and your seat can occasionally get knocked as waiters try to squeeze past.
What should we order?
Their cocktail list made us very, very happy. Their Bloody Mary is made with locally-infused vodka with home-roasted tomato juice and seaside spices, garnished with a fresh oyster. It would be a travesty not to have one.
The menu is split into the Raw Bar, starters and mains. So you can feast on oysters, langoustines, whelks and crab claws until the cows come home, or you can opt for the standard starter/main combo. Or you can mix it up, they’re the kind of place who are more than happy for you to just enjoy the food in any which way.
We started with the Palourde clams with garlic and coriander (£10), served in a deep bowl with a glorious amount of garlicky oil to lap up with fresh bread. The rainbow trout came with beetroot and potato pancakes (£7)and a smidge of fresh horseradish that gave the dish the kick it needed.
We had heard the haddock fish and chips (£13.50) were large enough for two, so we ordered one and an additional starter of queen scallops with chorizo and lemon puree (£8.50) in case we weren’t full. The scallops were little sweet nuggets of delight and although at first I was a little alarmed by the bitter lemon puree, it became a welcome addition to the dish once used to it. The piece of battered haddock was gigantic and we were glad to be sharing. The batter was light and fresh and not at all greasy. The dish is meant to be served with proper chips in beef dripping but my companion was vegetarian so without fuss the staff changed the order to skinny fries, which were lovely and crispy – and we now have an excuse to go back just to get ahold of the chunky ones. A side of salad came with rainbow beetroot and the onion rings were a delicious naughty treat.
We were stuffed but probably would have made room for a pudding to share (the homemade brownie with figs and Cornish clotted cream sounded like a dream) had the service not erred slightly on the slow side. By the time we’d finshed mains it was 3.10pm (we arrived 1.15pm) and we had to get back to the day job.
And what about drinks?
The wine list was short and sweet with three different whites served by bottle(ranging between £18 and £30), two by the glass and all chosen to compliment the fish. We tried the Sauvignon Blanc at £7.50 a glass which went down a treat. At the time we went they were only two choices of red, one rose and two sparkling, but we’re told this is a reduced menu and there will be more wines appearing once the soft launch is over.
And how much will this set me back?
Well we did expect it to be a little cheaper as the ethos of Bonnie Gull is to sell at affordable prices, but we guess Fitzrovia rents meant having to push the rates slightly higher. Saying that, the quality of the fish and the warmth of the staff means we will definitely be returning. The bill came to approx. £75 including three cocktails, a glass of wine, three starters, one main, one coffee and no desert.
A wonderfully inviting, neat little restaurant that is sure to become a winner with locals and local businesses alike. Due to the large following from the Bonnie Gull previous incarnations their tables are getting snapped up, so get in early if you want to try it for yourself. Once the hype dies down I’m sure this will become a regular for many who not only love fish but appreciate the efforts they go to to source British produce. If you can’t get a table at the moment do not fear, they are doing takeout including lobster roll and the beef dripping chips that I have been dreaming about since I left. Or try the weekend, their brunch menu looks like a winner too.
Bonnie Gull, 21A Foley Street, London W1W 6DS. Find out more.
Prices were correct at time of writing.