The Seafood Bar, London: ‘The pads for one are enough to feed two’ – restaurant review | Food

The Seafood Bar, 77 Dean Street, London W1D 3SH (020 4525 0733). Starters £ 9.50- £ 12.50, main courses £ 15.50- £ 32.50, plates £ 27.50- £ 49.50, desserts £ 6.95- £ 7.50, wines from £ 25

It starts badly; terrible, terribly bad. We order calamari, a large plate full at a considerable price of £ 10.50. It’s very old school: a pile of the heavy rings of golden-beaten ripe squid that the British came to associate with the sun-drenched exotica of 1980s Mediterranean holidays. Sangria, sunburn, glamor from deep fried calamari. I just have to look at them and soft waves of nostalgia wash over me. I can almost smell Nivea After Sun.

Now I bite in and what comes off the fleshy ring is a smooth saliva thread of something sickly white and worrying. The squid has not been membraneed before it was beaten and deep-fried. It looks like it is producing dribbles that need to be wiped off with a napkin. It’s naughty and a terrible waste. The newly opened Seafood Bar on London’s Dean Street is making a lot of noise about the sustainability of its business in general and the ingredients it uses in particular. But there is no point in enlarging your ethics if you do not want to take on the essentials.

'Contains a huge king prawns, large fatty prawns and rings of squid, a thick piece of salmon, a few sole sole fillets and a good size sea bass fillet.  Oh, and a half lobster ': the seafood platter.
‘Contains a huge king prawns, large fatty prawns and rings of squid, a thick piece of salmon, a few sole sole fillets and a good size sea bass fillet. Oh, and a half lobster ‘: the seafood platter. Photo: Sophia Evans / The Observer

Fortunately, it turns out to be an aberration, because we’ll eventually get to our main courses, and they will be magnificent. They will more than argue for the restaurant’s recent opening. Which is good, because I started to wonder if it had any hope in hell of surviving. Seafood Bar is the first British outpost for a Dutch restaurant group with four branches in the Netherlands. It occupies the home of what was once the Red Fort, a venerable Indian restaurant much loved in its pompousness by the great men of the Labor Party because of the support given to their cause by its owner, Amin Ali.

I had never before measured how big the Red Fort place was. Now it has been removed and you can see everything. There are white tiles and white veneer facades for the bar. There are blooms of beige whose beige can bloom, thanks to pale banquets and lace wooden floors. There is also a small bare brick lit by eruptions of neon signs. It appears that the decor was done by a subsidiary of White Company in an attempt to break out of all the bedding and towels. For weeks, I have been able to see all of this through the huge faceplate windows because every time I have passed, it has seemed remarkably empty. As in, people kept remarking to me about its emptiness.

'Service bar': sea bass ceviche.
‘Service bar’: sea bass ceviche. Photo: Sophia Evans / The Observer

The problem, I think, is knowing what Seafood Bar is for, because all successful restaurants need a clear purpose. There is the date-night place and the place for special occasions; the family’s dinner place and the place “can not bother to cook”. In Bentley’s, Scott’s and J Sheekey, London already has three large seafood gastro palaces. Close your eyes as you reach for the plastic and insert the mantra: “Good seafood should never be cheap.” Somewhere in the middle market there are Parsons and Bob’s Lobster, the Oystermen and the various Wright Brothers. No, none of them are completely cheap, but you probably get away without whipping a kidney.

So what about Seafood Bar? What is it for? After all, the menu includes a fruits de mer for two for £ 87.50. That puts it in the Sheekey area, right? This is where it gets interesting. It’s definitely about seafood dishes to share. The thing is, the division may not be quite the way the restaurant itself had intended. I’m aware that what I’m about to say may undermine their business model, but since this is what I would tell a close friend, I really should tell you this too.

'Terribly good value for money' basically they fruit more (without lobster).
‘An awful lot for your money’ basically sea ​​food (without lobster). Photo: Sophia Evans / The Observer

Their dishes for one are enough to feed two. Let’s start with their “mixed grill from the plancha”. What they call a serving of one costs £ 35 and includes a huge king prawns, large fatty prawns and rings of (thankfully membranous) squid, a thick piece of salmon, a few slip-tongue fillets and a good-sized sea bass fillet. Oh, and a half lobster. All this comes in a ripe tomato sauce at the bottom, and dripped in places with herbal-garlic butter. Finally, it is decorated with leaves of sapphire. Get a bowl of their very good chips each and an awful lot of napkins and you will both be sorted. It’s huge.

Exactly the same applies with sea ​​food. There is a version for one for £ 49.50, but if you are willing to give up the lobster, it costs £ 27.50. And again, these would mean that you have to spend for these processes. There are mussels and razors, heart mussels and brown prawns, periwinkles, prawns, clams and a lobster. There is a seafood salad plus rolls with smoked salmon, a hunk brown crab, a seaweed salad and a few stone oysters. There is one bowl with a Marie Rose sauce and another with an herbal dip. There is a whole lot of everything. You get the idea now: a serving of chips or two, some salad and the job is done. Come here if you need to get into the little things of life with a close friend, or even just with an acquaintance. It’s impossible to be formal with anyone when you’re up to your armpits in shellfish leftovers.

'It was not made here': cheesecake.
‘It was not made here’: cheesecake. Photo: Sophia Evans / The Observer

The menu has other things. There is a sea bass ceviche that can be used. As mentioned, they do a lot on their website about the sustainability of their ingredients including the salmon, Nordic Blu, which they say is the most sustainable farmed salmon in the world. If you are interested in these things and you should, you can read all about it on their website.

There are only two desserts: a multi-layered chocolate mousse and a cheesecake. I take a look at them and know right away that they are not made here. Our talkative and knowledgeable servant confirms this. Do not let them hold you back. You’re in Soho. The large Maison Bertaux, which has been making its amazing cream cake and pastry thing since 1871, is just across the Greek street. Right at the bottom of Dean Street is Maître Choux, for some seriously impressive chocolate eclair and choux bun action. You have better choices. But come for these seafood dishes. I simply have to cross my fingers that they are not now rethinking their portion sizes and prices as a result of what I have said. For what they offer deserves a good audience.

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