Small shiny seafood shack serves salty sustenance
It’s fascinating what you’ll find in the back streets of London. Bonnie Gull is a seafood restaurant located on Foley Street, a quiet street located in a slice of city in between the thoroughfares of Oxford Street and Great Portland Street. The place has been done up to resemble a humble seaside shack – all wooden planks with a dash of nautical kitsch lining the walls. Bonnie Gull has replaced Back to Basics, an older seafood restaurant, at the same address but there’s no relation between the two as far as I can tell.
Service on both of my visits was friendly and helpful, if a little slow.
First things first
Gulls are noisy beasts, but that hasn’t stopped their eggs from popping up on the menus at a few select London restaurants, including Bonnie Gull’s. The small, soft boiled egg was very mildly salty and the runny orange yolk was slightly tangy, but it wasn’t dramatically different from a hen’s egg. The yolk did make for good dunking with the accompanying toast and stems of tender, fresh asparagus though.
Far more satisfying were the firm, plump and salty fresh razor clams. They’re easily some of the meatiest razor clams I’ve had in London so far.
Pairing scallops with pork belly sounds like cheating of the highest order. As expected, the clashing flavours of the scallops and the pork belly didn’t compliment each other well at all. Still, when taken on their own they were very tasty indeed. The tender strands of belly oozed with rendered fat and were topped with crispy, slightly hard crackling. The scallops were soft, creamy and very fresh. The less said about the so-so potatoes and apple sauce though, the better.
Bonnie Gull’s beef dripping chips aren’t quite as good as the version at Hawksmoor, but they’re still good. Although the internal texture was a little inconsistent with some thick and fluffy and others far more bitty and oily, the crisp, golden exterior was a delight.
Going back for seconds
The menu at Bonnie Gull changes frequently depending on what’s fresh, so it’s rarely exactly the same. On my second visit I started off with some small but juicy clams bathed in a thin but rich sauce that tasted strongly of butter and garlic. Simple, but lip smacking.
I was pleasantly surprised by the grilled mackerel. The light and tender fish didn’t have the characteristic oiliness and strong aftertaste of that fish, but was still unmistakably mackerel. It was complimented nicely by juicy, sweet tomatoes and some silky mushrooms that had an unusual but pleasing acidic tartness due to the fact that they had been pickled.
The tangy, moreish spinach purée accompanying the hake was a little too bold for that light, tender and milky fish. The purée was just right though for the mildly salty and nutty cakes of potato and almond mash. It’s just a shame all the elements of this dish didn’t quite come together as one coherent whole.
The lemon curd tart proved to be a good way of finishing things off. The smooth, soft and boldly zesty tart had a caramelised crust, similar to the one you’d find on a good crème brûlée. The combination of contrasting textures and punchy lemoniness was a delight. The icy sorbet tasted little of blood oranges, but it did help cut through the strong aftertaste of the tart, cleansing the palate.
Bonnie Gull isn’t quite perfect with some missteps here and there, but it’s still a damn fine seafood restaurant that’s a must-visit.
Name: Bonnie Gull
Branch tried: 21A Foley Street, London W1W 6DS
Phone: 0207 436 0921
Opening Hours: seven days a week noon-22.00.
Total cost for one person including soft drinks: £50 approx.