Friday, 4 September 2020

Melusine, St Katherine's Dock

We're close enough to the dark days of countrywide COVID paralysis that I'm still ticking off post-lockdown firsts - first trip to the cinema, first haircut, first altercation with an over-aggressive chugger. Avalon by the Melusine (I'm re-reading the press release now and I'm still not sure of the distinction between seafood restaurant Melusine and the popup Avalon, which appears to occupy the same building and has the same menu...)* is my first post-lockdown invite, a chance to try a seafood restaurant in St Katherine's Dock that had not previously pinged my sonar, and (of almost equal importance) an excuse to walk home over Tower Bridge, surely one of the most spectacular ways of ending an evening in town.

There's an inherent risk in visiting a seafood restaurant, at least a decent seafood restaurant that relies on unpredictable supplies of seafood, and it's that you allow yourself to get excited about ordering, I don't know, spider crab or langoustine or chocolate clams or something, only to find out with some disappointment that on the day of your visit, they don't have any. Having been seduced by the photos of langoustine on the Melusine website I was a bit upset to discover on arrival that they weren't on that day's menu, but I put a brave face on and ordered some kumamoto oysters instead. I am nothing if not adaptable.

And the oysters were great - cute little things with a good mignonette dressing on the side. As the name suggests, kumamoto are originally from Japan, but have long since been grown all around the world and are a regular feature on the menu anywhere trying that little bit harder to expand their oyster offering. They're very satisfying to eat, sturdy and compact, with a deep shell containing more flesh than you'd think at first glance, and a nice sweet flavour.

"Crispy" Torbay prawns were exactly that, introduced whole to the deep fryer and presented with the instruction to "eat the whole thing, including the head". Which, of course, we dutifully did. The prawns themselves were sweet and soft inside, with the shells just the wrong side of chewy but still doable, the slight oddness of the texture more than offset by the novelty of being able to throw handfuls of whole prawns into your gob at once, like a hungry pelican. But they were complimented beautifully by a strong aioli, yellow with garlic, which packed a happy punch.

House bread was a very decent sourdough, and a little olive oil and balsamic dip, which seemed appropriate given the Mediterranean-ness of the surroundings and menu.

I'll never say no to razor clams. I hope one day to go and forage for them myself on the beach - apparently you look for a telltale "keyhole" shape hole in the sand, and pour loads of salt down. The razors will rise up out of the ground wondering why it's got so salty all of a sudden, and you grab 'em. These examples, plump and fresh, were dressed in a garlic and seaweed oil which added some lovely colour as well as allium zing.

Main course was lobster and chips, because there's something nicely rebellious about pairing an ostensibly luxury product with a more everyday accompaniment - Elizabeth Haigh's fried chicken with caviar is another example that springs to mind (and very lovely that was too). The lobster was perfectly cooked and handily had the de-shelled claws laying on top, leaving just the job of removing the tail meat from the shell for the customer - a deeply satisfying thing to do. It goes without saying that it didn't need the roasted green pepper weirdly dumped on top (why?) but the beastie itself was perfect, and the chips were crisp and nicely seasoned.

There was also a samphire and cucumber salad, the details of which escape me so it can't have been that notable, but it performed the job of "being a salad" perfectly well.

We had overindulged on seafood and chips and couldn't manage a full dessert, but did notice on the way into the restaurant freshly-baked canel├ęs very invitingly laid out on a tray. And this, topped with a superb passionfruit jam, ended the meal beautifully.

In the end, then, Melusine/Melusine-by-the-Sea/Avalon did more than enough to impress. Sure, lobster and roasted green pepper will never be happy bedmates, and I'd have liked a slightly more expansive shellfish offering, but these are minor blips in what was otherwise a very enjoyable evening. And there's every chance as the weeks roll on, and the grim memories of lockdown fade into the ever more distant past, that the menu will be even more worth the journey to Tower Bridge. And if not, well, for us Southies there's always that glorious walk home.


I was invited to Melusine/Melusine-by-the-Sea/Avalon and didn't see a bill, but I think dinner for two under normal circumstances would have come to around £50pp - pretty reasonable, really.

* Some clarification on the whole Avalon/Melusine thing from their PR - Avalon is the popup that is currently available Thursday-Saturday until the end of September outside on the dock itself, weather permitting. As it was raining the day I visited, the popup was cancelled and we had the usual Melusine menu.


Anonymous said...

Nice review as always. What is Avalon then ?

Chris Pople said...

Avalon is the popup that happens outside on the dock, Thursday-Saturday until end of September.

Anonymous said...

Thanks but I was more asking what do Avalon serve ? Do they also do fish or another cuisine/style entirely ?

Chris Pople said...

Oh sorry! I believe Avalon is a daily-changing seafood tasting menu. "Avalon by The Melusine will provide visitors with an abundance of fresh seafood through its daily changing menu, which includes oysters, langoustines, crabs, ceviche, taramosalata, scallops, octopus and salads. There will also be an extensive drinks menu with wine and cocktails (such as their signature cocktail “The Avalon”) and a variety of gins."

Anonymous said...

Thanks ! :-)