The Handbook
The Handbook

What? The work of Alex Hunter and Danny Clancy, this is the second seafood shack to open and follows on from Bonnie Gull in Fitzrovia which has now been opened five years.

New? Yes it opened at the end of 2016.

Where?  22 Bateman Street, Soho, W1D 3AN,

On the Menu: Made up of what they’ve caught in the boats that day, the menu is all about fresh, British seafood and small plates with a handful of sides and puddings thrown in. Expect to find the likes of Cullen skink with Hayle mussels and smoked haddock; wild Brixham brill, celeriac puree and devilled shrimp butter and Selsey white crab meat with brown crab and crab bisque.

First Impressions: It’s Friday night in Soho – of course it’s going to be busy and even more so given its size. There is a slight problem with squeezing past the other diners to get to your table and a bit of a bottle neck given there is only one loo which is right in the way of where everyone is walking – but the atmosphere is fun and relaxed.

The Look: Sticking to the philosophy of the best things come in small packages, Bonnie Gull has just 23-covers. There is counter dining where the chefs can hand your food straight over from the charcoal grill and a handful of tables at the back with a banquette running two sides of the wall. Coriander Buildings (Riding House Café and Blixen) are responsible for the look; think whitewashed walls, cactuses and mirrors. It’s cosy, minimalistic and a little rough around the edges.

What We Ate: Tempura Achill oysters were served bathing in curry mayonnaise and they were exquisite. Three just isn’t enough, you’ll find yourself scooping up every last drop of mayonnaise – seriously good. Manx Queen scallops are served with cubes of meaty black pudding and topped with a refreshing apple purée – simple but effective. Their take on a prawn toast is the squid toast, decorated with sesame seeds and served with squid ink aioli, a dramatic monochrome dish that taste every bit as good as it looks. Flaky Petershead cod came in a sea of creamy sauce with herbs, in the best possible way it was reminiscent of the boil in the bag cod that you had a child, albeit without the obligatory mash and peas and with confit duck and apple brandade instead.

A honeycomb, chocolate and whisky sundae arrived unnecessarily deconstructed, but the honeycomb was gloriously sticky and crunchy and the whisky chocolate sauce was the right amount of boozy so we could forgive it not technically being a sundae. A cranachan cheesecake topped with soaked oats and a generous scoop of chocolate ice cream was a real winner.

We couldn’t fault the dishes, when it comes to seafood small plates, Bonnie Gull is leading the way and it’s going to be hard to beat.

What We Drank: The wine list is predominantly French with a couple of Italian and German offerings. We went for a glass of Ministry of Clouds, a fruity, floral Riesling from Clare Valley in Australia.

Go With: Given that you’re going to get cosy, take a date or one of your closest friends. If you like your personal space start working on that now.

Final Word: Unless you’re looking for private hire of a group of ten or more, it is walk-ins only, so be prepared to wait or go in search of a drink until a table becomes free.

Like This? Try These: Bonnie Gull Fitzrovia Seafood Shack, Chicama, Crab Tavern

This review was first published February 2017