Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Bonnie Gull, Fitzrovia

There is a way of getting the absolute most out of Bonnie Gull. Between the hours of 4pm and 6pm every day, this friendly little bistro in Fitzrovia (there's also one in Soho) serves glasses of prosecco for £5 and oysters for an incredible £1 each - cheaper than you can get them retail from most fishmongers. It makes it the perfect spot for a bit of classy pre-dinner bubbles and nibbles, and for this extraordinarily generous offer alone they deserve much praise.

Unfortunately, aside from £1 oysters and prosecco, not everything at Bonnie Gull is worth shouting about, but let's start with the positives. Firstly, it's an utterly charming little room, and though perhaps they can be accused of stuffing in slightly more tables than makes for comfortable amounts of personal space, it all seems to fit with the neighbourhood bistro vibe. Service, too, is right on point - friendly and relaxed but efficient and attentive, easily done you could argue, in a room of this size, but very welcome nonetheless.

Oysters - between £3 and £5 each once the happy hour wears off, so not exactly a bargain but within the bounds of acceptability - are expertly shucked, and served absolutely correctly, ie. with a choice of mignonette, lemon and tabasco sauce, all bases covered. Once doused in tabasco, lemon and the like I didn't detect much of a difference between the advertised three varieties of Jersey rock, Maldon rock and Carlingford rock[sic] (did they mean Carlingford Lough?) but they were all lean and fresh and full of seasonal goodness. This really is a very good time of year to be eating oysters.

From then on, well, things were rather more mixed. Sea trout tartare was quite heavy on the mayo and could have done with some more aggressive seasoning, but the soda bread it came with was genuinely brilliant - fresh out of the oven, or at least freshly reheated, soft and sweet and utterly moreish.

Whole bream was sadly overcooked. The flesh inside was mushy and difficult to separate cleanly from the small bones, making eating it more of a chore than you'd hope than when spending £30 on a fish; even a generous pile of crunchy samphire couldn't save it. And the grandly-named "Ratte potatoes with mixed herbs emulsion" were very little more than plain boiled potatoes, with a rather unpleasant floury texture and in dire need of butter or seasoning to liven them up a bit.

We didn't stay for dessert and only had a single £6 glass of prosecco to wash it all down with, but somehow still racked up a bill of £77.50. And that is a lot of money to be paying for school dinner potatoes and overcooked fish. But when I think back to those lovely oysters, and the charming service, it's hard to be completely down on Bonnie Gull. If I'm ever in the Fitzrovia or Soho areas between 4 and 6 I am almost certainly going to be a very happy Happy Hour patron. In the end, of course I can't wholeheartedly recommend a seafood restaurant that can't cook fish very well. But as an oyster and champagne bar, it does very well indeed.


Apologies for the terrible photos - this was an inpromptu dinner and I didn't have my camera with me

1 comment:

Carlovski said...

Thirty Quid is pushing it for a not very expensive fish, in a so called bistro, even if it had been correctly cooked.