Tucked in an unassuming doorway off a Soho side street, is the eye-catchingly frenetic culinary concept, Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack! As drag queens stumble past and American tourists point and squawk, inside turbots are tossed and squid ink is squeezed.
It’s a burgeoning chain, with a bustling branch in Fitzrovia, and now a second satellite site in Soho. Fittingly, the interior of this Soho branch is a little like a ship’s galley. Long and narrow, customers eat sitting on stools facing the kitchen. In fact it’s so close you almost feel like you’re sitting IN the kitchen, and the rustically personable chefs exchange quirky quips and seafood-related puns (“Stop being so shellfish!”).
God knows, every conceivable style of restaurant has been done before in London, and done a million times over. But the combination of classy cosmopolitan and salty seawardness that sprays from the Bonnie Gull’s swinging doors, is refreshingly unique.
It’s done in the style of tapas, with lots of little bits and pieces to share, rather than set menus. Most memorable of the many dishes we sampled was the chargrilled Dorset cuttlefish, with chilli, garlic and virgin olive oil. Much like cuttlefish themselves, it was a kaleidoscopically unique explosion of colour and exoticism. The fish was at once tender and rich, while the chilli lent an unexpectedly oriental tang.
The Manx queen scallops were another highlight, painstakingly and caringly cooked, then scattered lovingly on a slice of slate with spatters of green apple and ink velouté.
An unexpected favourite was the tempura kale! Crunchily delicious, and served with a mouthwatering anchovy mayo, it was instantly addictive and dangerously easy to eat. The sort of thing Naomi Campbell might munch on whilst hungover from the Met Gala, draped on a chaise longue made of Tyra Banks.
We washed it all down with a white wine hand-picked by the charmingly chatty chefs, to compliment our maritime treats. A beautifully crisp and refreshing Sauvignon from the Loire region. Naomi would have been proud.
All in all, The Bonnie Gull is the perfect addition to London’s mad, sizzling restaurant scene; sophisticated but unpretentious, different but not gimmicky, and most importantly, bloody delicious!
The Bonnie Gull Soho: 22 Bateman Street, W1D 3AN
The Bonnie Gull Fitzrovia: 21a Foley Street, W1W 6DS
For more info visit: Bonniegull.com
Words by Dylan Jones