Co-founder of Just Opened London, James Marchant, brings us the lowdown on London’s new taste for fish.
Here at Just Opened London we believe that fish & chip shops rightly deserve their place on the podium of the UK & London’s great food options. Whenever I catch that distinctive chippy smell – Eau de Sarsons with a hint of batter – it’s difficult not to swerve in for cod & chips and maybe a battered sausage on the side.
And then we have fine dining piscine stalwarts such as J Sheekey and Scott’s – places for special occasions – always delivering some delicately handled, sparkly-eyed, firm-fleshed, friends from the sea.
For where do you set sail if you fancy something in-between? We’ve got the two ends of the spectrum covered nicely but mid-priced fish restaurants seem to have (actually, definitely have), struggled to cement a permanent spot in London’s eating scene.
Trawler Trash (with a doff of the fisherman’s hat for the name) serves fish and seafood that tastes fantastic but is usually overlooked, such as coley, pilchards, sprats, grey mullet and crayfish.
Here, the underrated stars of the sea are delivered fresh each day, with nothing ever frozen. The design of the 50 cover restaurant is inspired by the food, the sea and the ships that sail on her, so you’ll find golden tones, which bring to mind the crust of freshly fried fish and murky blues, which channel deep sea vibes. Concrete surfaces are evocative of wet markets and lighting of the glow of ships’ lanterns on a dark, misty night.
The wine list is packed with fish-friendly bottles of wines (with helpful pairing suggestions), and a short, on-trend beer selection, full of IPAs that are fantastic with seafood.
Trawler Trash is flying the flag for underrated seafood, or as they’re affectionately calling it, the ‘trash’ of the sea. We’re applauding this attempt to encourage Londoners to expand their taste for seafood especially when it has less of an impact on some of the over-fished staples.
Our other recent favourite is the new (and bigger) Prawn on the Lawn. The original was more fishmonger meets wine bar – there’s now a proper kitchen.
There’s a fresh menu here each day, dependent on what comes in from the day boats in Devon and Cornwall. And if you fancy something to break in to – oysters, crabs and lobster are sent up from local suppliers in Padstow.
Small plates include whole Cornish mackerel with ‘nduja & nasturtium as well as plaice tempura with curry sauce & crispy shallots. Seafood platters to share will have you fighting over whole crabs and lobsters served with garlic butter. You can also choose fish from the counter, and have it cooked with either classic, Thai or Chinese flavours. Just don’t be tempted to give your fish a name as you choose it – trust us, it makes the eating a little awkward…
And wines by the glass at Prawn on Lawn are fish-friendly – think Picpoul, Chablis and Muscadet.
Prawn on the Lawn was an already popular wine and cold seafood bar / fishmonger, which has stepped up a gear with this new, larger site and full working kitchen. We see whole crabs with garlic butter in our future, and we like it.
Here at Just Opened, we expect that more restaurateurs in 2017 will follow the lead of Trawler Trash and Prawn on the Lawn. As an island nation we have a funny relationship with the interesting, healthy and (most of all) delicious fish & crustacea that surround us. Chippies & the Scott’s of this world will always, happily, be with this. And now, innovative, well run restaurants like Trawler Trash and Prawn on the Lawn will pave the way for that missing middle ground to be filled.
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