1 Cale St, London SW3 3QT www.geales.com
Burger and Lobster? Garlic? Bread? Odd combos do work; I can mix Marmite with almost anything, and then of course there’s Ant’n’ Dec.
What I have in my hand here though, and am eyeing rather suspiciously, is a burger made with lobster. Lobster in a bun. Lobster sandwich. What’s it all about, eh?
IÃ¢â‚¬Ëœm in Geales Chelsea, which is not a pop up but a dug in. Seventy three years is a long time to be in business, although Geales Chelsea is somewhat younger than its Notting Hill sibling. The lobster burger is a nod to modern times; stick it in a bun, chuck out the cutlery, provide lots of napkins and get the youngsters flocking in.
But before we get to that burger, let’s splash about in the starters. It’s a simple large card menu laid out in the manner of a chip shop on the south coast, as befits a classic fish restaurant. The relaxed and informal room is restrained and cosy, although perhaps underneath the smart tablecloths lie formica topped tables? If so should they flaunt them? Probably not, this is a well to do area and people here see no value in ironic eating, leave that to the East End.
I am seduced, as I always am, into ordering fried squid. It’s a taste circuit soldered to my mainframe by family holidays to the Costas in the 1970s. While all around us were scarfing down egg and chips and sinking Double Diamonds, my dad would always order squid from a shocked Spanish waiter and encourage me to have some too. The love has never left me.
This is generous; the batter is excellent and the squid superbly butter-soft. The irregularity of the rings, and the presence of tentacles, are both indicative of the real deal, even if the taste wasn’t verifying that already. The sweet chili and garlic mayo is just right, not blended but sat side by side in a bowl so the diner can decide on each dunk’s perfect blend.
Alan, our wine writer, has Brixham mussels, appropriately enough as he’s en route from Madrid to his home in the South West, and he remarks how good these are in their cider, sage and bacon broth – dense and sweet and not overlarge. He gets to choose the wine of course, a Marsanne, Montagne Noir, Pays d’Oc, which he says won’t overpower any of the dishes and he’s absolutely right. Mind you I was rather inclined to try the Meantime beers, which it was good to see available. Beer and batter always go down well.
He’s still quite hungry, having last eaten real food, not airline snacks, some eight hours ago and so orders that ineffable comfort food the fish pie. It’s a whopper, enough for two, with generous amounts of cod, salmon, smoked haddock and king prawns in a Pernod herb sauce. You can’t really break down and analyse a fish pie, it either hits the spot or it doesn’t and this was on target and clearly made with some love.’Not over salty either,’ he says approvingly.
And so my lobster burger? Well yes I quite liked it but felt the lobster, not being all that a powerful flavour anyway, was being rather masked by the bun. Although it was perfectly fresh and’meaty’, its texture soon blended with the bun to create rather too much of a mouthful. The chips were really good though, crunchy outside and fluffy within, and the thermidor sauce on the side was elegant and punchy. For me though the lobster burger was a brave contender that wasn’t quite a winner, although I can quite understand others may think differently.
And so to pud. Alan really enthused over his Frozen Berries, Warm White Chocolate sauce enjoying the strongly flavoured, crunchy berries with their acidic bite, the sauce tempering that sharpness without being overly sweet. I had a chocolate cake kind of thing, precise note-taking seems to have broken down at this point, but I recall it was rich, dark and sickly in a very enjoyable way.
Geales quite clearly know what they’re doing with seafood, and probably know what they’re doing with that lobster burger. I sent a friend and his family in there the following weekend and they all raved about the mussels, the squid and especially the haddock and chips. Made me jealous, actually. Wish I’d had that now.
Definitely the kind of place we’d all like to have in our neighbourhood, Geales is no fish out of water in Chelsea.