Pop ups are a good idea. For the novelty and ephemerality element obviously, but also from a practical point of view. You can try out an idea first before committing to a long lease.
Alex Hunter and Danny Clancy had been wholesale seafood suppliers before teaming up with another wholesaler, this time of game, to open a part time restaurant last summer, called Bonnie and Wild, on the premises of L Manze, a traditional pie shop in Islington. The response was encouraging enough for Alex and Danny to seek a more permanent home. They found this just off Great Titchfield Street in the heart of Fitzrovian media land.
Last Friday the fresh blue and white colours of Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack stopped me in my tracks just close to my daughter’s place of work. A perfect venue for lunch and a catch up. Fabled Studio in Clerkenwell have pitched the design just right: seaside and retro, with an elaborate macramé rope design and a blackboard map of the UK showing the source of their fish, covering one wall
It reminded us of summer holidays in Cornwall, where you could buy mackerel straight off the boats. So I chose seared Cornish mackerel with multi-coloured beets, watercress horseradish and lemon. Not only were the beets of varied hues, some of them provided more variety by being pureed. My daughter went for a very good saffron risotto, packed with clams, mussels, hake, turbot and grey mullet. If you are feeling energetic, the whole Devon cock crab would have kept you busy most of lunch, but was spectacular in its presentation.
The daily changing menu reflects the best available from their UK fish suppliers. There is a raw bar section from which you can mix and match, or just have one Portland Pearl oyster @ 2.50, and some good sides of chunky beef dripping chips, or skinny fries with rosemary salt. Classics included a whole lemon sole on the bone with caper beurre noisette.
An effort is made with uncomplicated desserts. I had a lemon curd tart with a well flavoured yoghurt parfait, but there other choices such as a William pear poached in mulled wine with Cornish clotted cream.
The premises is perfect for lunchtime: light and airy, and just like a shop premises straight off the pavement. There was something a bit Parisian about the packed in tables with good food circulating and animated conversation. The only thing which wasn’t French was the background music. In that tiny premises with its hard surfaces, by 2 pm the noise level had reached such heights it was impossible to have a relaxed conversation. Danny Clancy is a DJ in his other life, so he may feel it’s obligatory.
But Luke Robinson, a graduate from one of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen, is doing a grand job on the cooking, and I have no doubt there will be other Bonnie Seafood Shacks popping up in the future.
Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack
21A Foley Street
London W1W 6DS
Tel: 020 7436 0921
Tuesday to Friday 12 noon onwards to all evening
Saturday and Sunday 10.30 am onwards