This is one of a small group of restaurants that has made the transition from an east London pop-up to something more permanent. Now occupying a full-time space in central London it’s easy to see why they have made the leap.
From humble beginnings, Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack hasn’t turned its back on its heritage, keeping its decor scaled back, clean and simple. The exterior is incredibly quaint and reminiscent of a seaside cafe rather than an inner-London restaurant; the blue and white striped canopy is charming and hangs down low over a few outdoor tables that are ideal for alfresco dining in the summer months.
Inside, the wooden chairs look old but have clearly been designed that way and the chequered tablecloths are cute without being try-hard. The walls are a glaring white colour except for one feature - a remarkable piece of artwork made from rope, offering a nautical flavour to the room. It’s well-pitched, walking the theme line without erring into pastiche.
Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack does laid-back chic very well, with an easygoing style that plays through to its chilled ambience. The staff are relaxed as well but service is still efficient. Although this is located slap-bang in the middle of central London it somehow feel far removed from the hubbub of Tottenham Court Road, though any fantasies of being by the seaside are soon brought crashing down to earth at the sight of row upon row of High Street branded shopping bags rammed under people’s feet.
Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack plays on the fact that we live on a small island surrounded by the sea and they source local seafood that has been recently caught. They take this ethos so seriously that they don’t open on Mondays because it’s a bad day for sourcing fish.
The restaurant has its own raw food bar for those that like oysters, but you can also sample raw scallops, winkles, whelks and a whole range of options you don’t usually get to try. The menu is well priced with starters coming in at around £7 and mains at £10-£20, so you can sample quality, locally-sourced seafood without paying through the nose for it. The menu changes daily depending on what ingredients are fresh that day but you can expect to see starter options such as smoked trout, scallops and langoustines.
Main courses tend towards simple combinations that allow the fish to shine, but one of the real stand-out dishes has to be the traditional mix of fish and chips. Yup, it’s an oldie but a goodie, and Bonnie Gull does an especially good job of showcasing it. The battered haddock (£13) is clearly a lovely piece of fish – fresh, meaty and bright white. The batter is especially good and doesn’t tend towards greasiness, instead retaining a crisp crunch throughout the meal, showcasing a delicate hand when it comes to seasoning. It’s served with ‘proper’ fat chips with a gentle crunch and soft fluffy middle. The mushy peas have a creamy sweetness of fresh peas and even the ketchup is homemade and doesn’t have the horrible sugary undertone of branded bottled red sauce. Finally, tourists can see what all the fish and chip fuss is about.
There’s a decent wine list that isn’t so lengthy that you’re left scratching your head in confusion. The focus of white wines is particularly good given the nature of the majority of the menu and there is a good choice of old and new world bottles covering mainly the standard grape varieties – it won’t set the sommelier world alight but for food pairing it gets the job done. They also do some themed cocktails with cute names like the Nemo (gin, Kummel, lemon juice, Fino sherry, fresh radish, salt) and their (almost) namesake the Bonnie Mary (infused vodka, tomato juice, spices, oyster garnish).
The Last Word
Bonnie Gull Seafood Shack is proud of Britain’s great produce and isn’t afraid to show it off. Long may she sail on the notoriously choppy culinary waters of London town.