September 2021 saw the arrival of The Seafood Bar to the heart of lively Soho, within a 1730 Grade II listed Georgian townhouse on the iconic Dean Street. This was the best news as the thing I missed the most about this year’s summer is not just the sunshine and ocean waves lapping at my feet – for me, the simple pleasures of life are dominated by eating fresh seafood in a beachfront restaurant somewhere on the Mediterranean coast.
The Seafood Bar is a new seafood restaurant making waves on London’s dining scene. This is the family-run restaurant group’s fifth site founded by the De Visscher family (fishmongers since 1984) and their first international venture outside the Netherlands, famous for offering guests the freshest seafood without a heavy price tag.
The Seafood Bar founding family is made up of the fishmonger-turned-restaurateur father Fons de Visscher (direct translation is the fisherman), and his son and daughters, Pepijn, Eline and Fleur. All the restaurants live by the ‘Lekkerbek’ philosophy (what might seem simple on the outside, is complicated on the inside), with simple dishes on the menu which allow the fish to speak for itself.
A glass of the Italian Ferrari Trento Champagne is an obvious start for the amount of seafood we’re about to devour, and the crisp and bubbly liquid fills up my stomach with excitement. A single peek at the extensive menu can seem a bit confusing, but with the help of one of the lovely waitresses, even the least experienced seafood lovers will be able to build up their dream dining experience. From classic starters like garlic shrimps to cold platters presented on a sparkling bed of crushed ice and traditional fish & chips, every dish is brought to the table with the greatest respect for the environment. The de Visschers maintain close relationships with producers to ensure all seafood is sourced ethically and sustainably, most recently partnering with Nordic Blu to source the world’s most sustainably farmed salmon and implementing a zero waste policy in each of their restaurants.
Spoiled by choice, we end up ordering almost every small plate from the finger food selection, with a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet in tow. While fried calamari might seem like the common choice of those who don’t like thinking outside the box, I consider them to be one of the most comforting dishes that always remind me of spending summer abroad. Crispy on the outside yet completely soft and full of flavour inside, they make me wonder why I don’t eat them every day. My friend, on the other hand, falls in love with the salmon avocado tartare – neatly shaped into a chunky disc and topped with coriander – and manages to eat not just one but two portions in one go. Plates are coming and going and our wine doesn’t even have time to rest in its pretty metal cooler before being replenished with another bottle.
I love the place’s unpretentious and hip atmosphere, yet its interiors are elegant, modern and infused with a millennial twist in the form of a giant neon crab projecting warm red light across the room. The restaurant spans two floors comprising 190 covers, with stunning white marble fixtures throughout and tables spread out to create a spacious backdrop. As dusk falls, the basement transforms into a buzzing bar – a place that’s set to offer an exciting monthly schedule of events that will include late night oyster parties.
Giggly on the buzz of the night, we settle on the iconic Fruits De Mer Seafood Bar (£87.50 for two) as our main dish because quite frankly, seafood is what we came for. When our platter arrives, my phone is already in the air and ready to capture the grandiosity for Instagram. A large metal tray is filled with a sparkling bed of crushed ice and topped with every possible underwater creature from the sea you could possibly think of. Combination of cold crustaceans and shellfish, half lobster, oysters, mussels, cockles, razor clams, brown shrimps, salmon, vongole clams, Devon Brown crab, periwinkles, shrimps, Northern prawns, seafood salad, seaweed salad and langoustines create a jewel-like rainbow on a plate. A definition of a generous quantity of the freshest seafood without that heavy price tag.
This is where the fun begins. With our very special little tool similar to a fork but with only two sharp edges, we begin to carve the shellfish while presenting pieces of snow-white meat to each other as a simple act of victory. We cheer with our oysters bathed in tabasco as if they were cocktails, making slurping noises along the way.
What I love about seafood and particularly this selection is that you can really have fun while eating – an experience that makes The Seafood Bar even closer to an actual bar. I cannot say I love every little creature on this plate – and some are more difficult to eat than others – but I’m intrigued to try them all and wash them down with another swig of wine. Northern prawns and lobster bathed in garlic butter become my favourite, although each piece plays an important role in this spinning wheel of tastes and aromas.
As the evening slowly spills into the night, we realise that we’re one of the last people still nibbling and clattering with cutlery. There’s no rush from the staff to leave and head home, but we can sense that the fun is nearing its final moments. A sweet finishing touch in the form of a classic Espresso Martini was all we needed to keep the food coma away, while giving us the energy to step outside to the streets of busy Soho once again.
With seafood fresh as if it was just caught, The Seafood Bar is a stylish, promising spot to dine and drink in – a place in which you could close your eyes, take a bite of fresh fish and swear it’s the ocean (and not the hustle and bustle of busy London) you’re hearing.
To discover more, visit: theseafoodbar.com
All imagery courtesy of The Seafood Bar.
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