There are 200 Ocean Baskets around the world, Nick set sail for the Kingston outlet

‘It’s kind of like a Harvester, ‘ said a friend who knows the brand,  ‘but one that only serves seafood’.

Some people might say that sounds harsh, snobbish even. I don’t agree, there is a place in this world for family-friendly restaurants that are consistent, well-priced and tasty. Harvester didn’t get where they are today by not knowing their market, and how to satisfy it.

Ocean Basket was founded by two Greek brothers whose family arrived in South Africa in the 1960s. They certainly knew what they were doing as they have successfully reached out around the world, and recently to the UK with a restaurant in exotic Bromley, as well as one here in rather posher Kingston On Thames.

They certainly have a lovely location in Kingston, so close to the river you could probably catch your own fish from one of the sought after balcony tables. The sun is belting down as we sit down, and with the smell of frying seafood coming out of the kitchen we could almost be in Greece.

Ocean Basket says that its buying power means it is able to source great quality, usually frozen, fish from all over the world and keep menu prices down. It also sources locally when it can, as proven by our platter of oysters from the UK.

These were decent examples, quiveringly fresh, plump and served on a bed of ice cubes (although crushed ice would have been more aesthetically appealing, and probably not cost the restaurant any more). Well shucked they had no shell fragments floating about, something I really get annoyed about when it happens in fine-dining restaurants.

We had slices of grilled halloumi alongside. Nicely browned on the outside and a salty compliment to the oysters. If I am being picky I would have liked the slices to have been slightly thicker so that the cheese wasn’t cooked completely through. That’s how I grill halloumi at home, anyway. 

We’ve all had Greek salads in Greece, they can be a mixed bag, or bowl. Here the cucumber dominated the scene backed up with green peppers, tomatoes and some olives, although not enough olives for me, and a good-sized hunk of feta. It was all crispy and refreshing, the dressing perhaps a little underpowered.

Now onto the fish. There’s a hefty selection of dishes, stand -alones and platters.  The restaurant’s deep fryer ‘basket’ seems to do most of the heavy lifting in the kitchen, but grilled fish is offered too. All the dishes have nutritional information, which is handy but you don’t really need to be told not to overdo it on the battered food.

So we had one of the  platters, its arrival drawing envious glances, but at £50 for two people, it’s not expensive for what it is. From left to right we had excellent plump mussels in a lemon garlic sauce, calamari ‘popcorn’ (deep fried squid tentacles, presumably called ‘popcorn’ so as not to frighten kids), wonderfully tender and small grilled calamari (specially sourced apparently), prawns butterflied and grilled, and some Cape Hake which we asked for grilled, not fried, as it seemed a shame to drown such an excellent fish in batter. Cape Hake is sold in M&S, so it’s obviously a good fish.

There was rice, Uncle Ben’s style, but actually perfectly okay, and chips which were fine but we stayed away from so as not to lose any space for the fish. The prawns were very tasty, the butterflying removing the vein and making sure the grill got to kiss all the flesh. A bit of a messy eat, I’d suggest supplying finger bowls on the table because we soon ran out of paper napkins.

As a SA restaurant you’d expect it to have well-priced and good quality wines and it did, a Benguela Cove Sauvignon Blanc served us well.

We were well stuffed after all this, but I still succumbed to the lure of a Dom Pedro, a South African classic. It’s basically a milkshake made with alcohol and is very rich and thick.

So thick that my straw kept getting clogged and I wondered if perhaps a long-handled spoon might have been easier. Still though it was decadently more-ish and obviously a crowd-pleaser.

And that’s Ocean Basket, a crowd-pleaser. It’s not fine dining, and doesn’t pretend to be,  but the fish is all well-sourced and high quality, and there’s so much variety on the menu I can’t imagine anyone would be stuck to find something they fancied to reel in.

52A High Street, Kingston Upon Thames, KT1 1HN

Ocean Basket works alongside WWF SASSI (South African Sustainable Seafood Initiative) and uses global guidelines from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)