Vicentia Court,Bridges Court Rd,London SW11 3GY www.thefishplace.co.uk
The south side of the Thames between Battersea and Wandsworth has had a quiet regeneration. Not so long ago it was a bare industrial area of oil silos and timber yards all puddled with eternal rain and grimly reflecting a slate grey sky. Now the area boasts glam apartments winking their cobalt-coloured lights into the night while tiered balconies wait patiently to welcome home City people tired from leveraging this and hedging that and worrying how many noughts they might get on their bonus. ‘I told them, it had better be minimum £500K this year or I’m walking!’
The Fish Place has docked here, presumably to trawl for some of the money floating about. If you don’t live in one of the apartments then privateer clampers lurk in the shadows. skull and crossbones flying, ready to leap out and, according to a sign, make about £250 profit if you dare to park anywhere at all. That apparently is changing and car parks will soon be available to diners.
The restaurant, once you find it, is modern and stylish. Housed in a brand new building it has a first floor crow’s nest offering great views out onto the nearby stygian Thames. In any other capital the river would be alive with boat traffic even at night, here in London it recalls the beginning of Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, an empty highway heading out into the blackness of beyond.
Which is all a bit gloomy I suppose. In my defence it was a filthy night and it’s clear that when summer comes The Fish Place is going to be beautifully located. As it is, it’s a great novelty for a London restaurant to have a view from table, and of a London that few really ever see.
With a room kitted out in modern metals and colours and with a frieze that references Hockney-ish reflections in water, the curved dining room is attractive and welcoming and staff are slick and smooth without being oily.
The menu isn’t all fish, but as it’s the speciality what else would you want to eat? I like their mission statement “We aim to serve top quality fish, caught in British waters without too much fuss… food is to be eaten not photographed”. A a brief glance at the interweb blogs proves that this latter gentle admonition hasn’t stopped a succession of food twitchers levelling their Canons at the Poissons all the same.
Sautéed River Dart Mussels, Shallots, white wine, cream, chilli and coriander is the kind of dish that lifts the spirits on a wet night. The mussels are powerfully sweet, gaping up like a miniature Sydney Opera House and bobbing in a broth that makes you wish the waiter supplied a straw along with the cutlery. All the elements are balanced; the slight acidity of the wine, the gentle but pervasive warmth of the chili, the floral notes of coriander and the smooth binding action of the cream. It’s very good indeed.
S’s Dorset Crab Raviolis Buttered savoy cabbage, shellfish and tarragon looked good and apparently tasted better. The crunch of the cabbage against the gently yielding crab and butter-soft pasta certainly floated her boat. Dorset crabs are a UK product that can go toe to toe with any caught in Europe and win by a knockout every time. More please.
I didn’t like the sound of steamed bass. Steamed fish always makes me think of 1970’s NHS dinners and enforced stays when I was a lad, but S had it and liked it a lot. It came with braised fennel, delicate rings of sautéed baby squid, parsley puree and an ink sauce. ‘Lovely light dish,’ she said, ‘just right for January. Virtuous eating and perfectly cooked flavourful fish,’ Like me she was a bit doubtful about the enormous plate it sat on – a dated designery idea
My Brill was absolutely brill. A great big hunk of fresh fish cooked on a charcoal grill to give it those tasty sear lines. Sat on a slightly dry herby mash potato, but moated by a superb lemon beurre blanc, it also benefitted from a handful of sugar-sweet clams dotted about together with some baby leeks. As a dish it was impossible to fault and the quality of the fish fully justified the price.
S who knows her Michelin stars loved her dessert of Pain Perdu with marinated agen prunes and ice Cream. ‘This is Roux standard,’ she said with her mouth full. It was indeed, my Couvature Orange Tart and chocolate fondant was equally assured. For once I didn’t wish I’d had the cheese instead.
Wine was well-priced and well-chosen and apparently they do a mean fish n chips on a Friday lunchtime. Eating there feels like eating in another City; modern, tasteful, forward looking and assured. For most of us it’s a destination well worth making the small effort to get to. For bankers living in the area, Fish Place is all the bonus they really need this year.