Restaurant review: Bonnie Gull, EC1

Bonnie Gull in Exmouth Market

Bonnie Gull in Exmouth Market - Credit: Archant

It started life as a pop up seafood shack in Hackney back in 2012 and later took up a popular residency in one of Islington’s best known pie and mash shops.

Bonnie Gull in Exmouth Market

Bonnie Gull in Exmouth Market - Credit: Archant

But now Bonnie Gull has just opened it’s second permanent restaurant, this time in culinary hotspot Exmouth Market.

The venue is larger than it’s sibling establishment in Fizrovia, and aims to offer a more informal 1960’s British seaside cafe feel.

Indeed, it’s a theme celebrated in every corner of the place – from its bright whitewashed facade and navy and white stripey awning, to the kitsch nautical paraphernalia adorning the walls inside, oak wood trims and the boat-like seating booths.

Food wise, there’s an open kitchen fronted by a shellfish counter, and takeaway and dine-in menus reflecting the seasons and the day’s catch.

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A couple of cocktails kicked things off, with my turquoise blue and purple concoction – a ‘pisco maraschino’ – looking as good as it tasted, and my partner’s ‘bonnie collins’ sharp and refreshing. The oysters which followed shortly afterwards were as fresh as they come and helped to further get us into the seaside spirit.

For starter, Manx queens (or scallops) came with chorizo, soft leeks and a smattering of apple puree – the intense smokey flavour of the sausage and sweetness of the fruit forming a delicious contrast without overpowering the shellfish.

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Meanwhile, my partner enjoyed pilchards on sourdough toast with a delicious topping of flame-grilled mackerel and tomato – an intense but tasty fusion.

My main course, the whole Looe lemon sole transported me straight back to one of the most memorable meals I’ve ever had, in a little French fishing port. This was as good, if not better – the delicate fish brought to life with a rich parsley butter sauce and zesty capers, and made all the more special by a scattering of cockles.

The Cornish hake was equally impressive and a much more unusual dish – the generous chunk of beautifully fresh fish complimented perfectly by the serving of a courgette flower – the top battered and filled with creamy goat’s curd.

And the traditional seaside theme continued all the way through to dessert – my homemade whippy ice cream cone took me back to my childhood, while my partner’s apple tart with chantily cream and caramel syrup was dreamy.

The food is outstanding, and the attention to detail really does transport you back to the glory days of the British seaside’s yesteryear, despite being smack bang in the centre of London.

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