Why have white wine every time? Nick finds Noilly Prat Martinis are the best thing to have with seafood

‘It’s Noilly Prat,  ‘I yell at the wife, ‘not Noilly Prahh!’ I’m yelling because the acoustics at Seabird make conversation an effort, the sound of the happy crowd bounces off the hard surfaces in a way that amplifies it massively. 

It’s the only downside to a space that is otherwise perfect. Set on the top (14th) floor of the Hoxton Southwark Hotel, restaurant Seabird is a vibrant spot with brilliant views and a superb roof terrace.

It’s no ordinary hotel restaurant but a destination in its own right. Focussed on fish, with some tidal diversions into meat, its menu is largely unstructured and ideal for sharing.

Why are we talking Noilly Prat though? Well Seabird in collaboration with Noilly Prat are offering the Noilly Prat x Seabird martini menu experience. You can have a bottle of Noilly Prat Original Dry-based cocktail served on crushed ice to share, priced at £48, or three Noilly Prat Original Dry-based cocktails poured in front of you with each cocktail priced at £5 per serving.

Noilly Prat is the French vermouth, based on a secret recipe, with twenty different herbs and spices, it has an unique outdoor ageing process by the sea which makes it slightly saline and thus perfect with seafood. I’ve actually been to its base in Marseillan in the South of France and seen the massive barrels stacked in the yard.

Our somewhat random ordering from the All Day Menu  results in a plate of Fried calamari with a lemon, red pepper aioli; some Dressed crab on toast with cox’s apple, guindilla, jamón lardo; Cornish cod escabeche pickled jerusalem artichokes, fennel; Grilled tiger prawn aioli, parsley; Chargrilled sweetheart cabbage  truffle and  pink peppercorn, and Triiple cooked chips paprika, rosemary salt.

As the dishes pile up on the table, we get our first glass as we eat some lovely olives and sour dough slathered (as Nigel Slater always says) in crab butter. A buff bloke appears with a bottle nestled in ice in a giant seashell, this is the first NP Martini –  the Fat Wash  and it’s made with Grey Goose vodka, Noilly Prat and olive oil.

Fat Wash means the oil or fat is added to the vodka at room temperature, left to sit for a bit and then the mix is chilled until the oil is solid and can be skimmed off. That way you get all the fat’s flavours without the fat. It’s actually a technique used by perfumers for centuries.

It’s a perfect shot, brimming the glass. We sip it with some of the bread and eat the dressed crab. The floral notes of the Noilly Prat, the olive oil flavours, and the edge of the vodka partner very well. The apple in the crab delivers some acidity against the richness, and the Basque chilli offers some mild heat.

The same cocktail fares slightly less well with the calamari, which is a perfectly fine dish. Crispy, and not in those suspicious rings, it’s a classic that’s always better off with a cold beer and a beach though.

Next up is Wet Martini which marries  Noilly Prat half and half with Oxley Gin, which is  an unusual gin as Oxley uses cold distillation to make a very bright gin, and in this case a perfect classic martini. It’s perfect with the superb hunk of cod and its brilliant pickled jerusalem artichokes. Sweet fish, vinegary artichokes and a crisp fresh martini , it’s a winner all the way. The big chips go down well too.

We make these last while we tackle the monster prawn. It’s smokey from the grill, the sweet meat protected by its shell. Nice and simple and the martini another good match.

The final Martini is a blend  of Green Chartreuse and Noilly Prat, I didn’t catch what else. I did hear that it’s called The Hulk, down to its colour. Would I like it if it was angry?

It’s sweetish so goes well with the Burnt Basque Cheesecake, made with Manchego, which is delicious.I don’t think I’ve ever matched a martini with a dessert before.

The Noilly Prat pairing is an excellent idea and a refreshing change and, at £15 per person for the drinks, very well priced. Seabird’s food is well up to the mark and that view, and that balcony, are added additions to a great meal.

The Noilly Prat experience will evolve with seasonal twists

Seabird, The Rooftop, The Hoxton Southwark,

40 Blackfriars Road, London, SE1 8NY

thehoxton.com | seabirdlondon.com | ennismore.com | @seabirdlondon