“The most important thing for us is the quality of our fish, and the best quality fish will always come from sustainable organic producers,” explained chef Tomos Parry in an interview with Luxury London. This focus on provenance is becoming increasingly commonplace among restaurants today, and indeed defines many of London’s newly opened seafood restaurants. But there is a clutch of eateries in the capital that as well as procuring the freshest, most sustainable ingredients are also focusing on preparing them simply, and here are three that are currently attracting attention.
Launched back in May, Neptune is part of the newly opened Principal Hotel, which overlooks Russell Square. Headed by chef Brett Redman, who previously ran the much-mourned pub The Richmond in Hackney and whose other London eateries include Elliot’s Café and Jidori, this modern seafood restaurant, housed in a large, peach-colored panelled room featuring Art Deco banquettes, has a gleaming oyster bar taking centre stage.
With an informal approach to classic dining, Neptune serves a variety of oysters and shellfish selected from independent growers around the UK, including towering seafood platters that evolve with the seasons, as well as a menu of fish sourced directly from boats in Cornwall. “We only buy fish and shellfish from reputable suppliers who are working the seas themselves,” Redman explained. “They’re family operators who need to manage the stocks and make sure that their business is sustainable for generations to come.”
Mirroring the approach to its food, Neptune also serves natural and low-intervention wines that focus on small-scale and quality producers - Redman’s Elliot’s was the first restaurant in London to have an all-natural wine list. And the ever-changing selection is curated by Isabelle Legeron, a Master of Wine and the world’s foremost authority on natural and low-intervention varieties.
Appreciating natural flavors is central to Neptune’s food philosophy, and so while many of the shellfish dishes remain unadorned, innovation comes in the form of a range of unique accompaniments such house-made hot sauce, dashi vinegar and aguachile. “We don’t just serve every piece of fish steamed with a choice of lemon, Tabasco and pepper,” Redman remarks. “We do a trout tartare with a spice mixture of what you’d put in rye bread – cloves, pepper, coriander seeds, nutmeg.”
Tomos Parry’s first solo restaurant also focuses on a “particularly gentle and simple” style of cooking. The award-winning Welsh chef, who previously served as head chef at Kitty Fisher’s, is now championing northern Spanish cooking in London’s Shoreditch.
Brat has a simple and stripped-back feel, with Art Deco wood panelling and large steel framed windows which flood the room with natural light. The kitchen is surrounded by a counter bar with high stools, but it’s the large wood grill that dominates the space. Everything on the menu is prepared by fire cooking, inspired by the style native to Getaria, a coastal town in the Basque Country, and Parry works closely with farmers and fishermen to structure the restaurant’s dishes around native ingredients at the peak of their season.
“One of the dishes is a whole turbot, slowly grilled in a fish cage, so the way we handle the seafood can be unique,” said Parry. “Cooking over fire is a volatile and variable method, you have to attend to it from beginning to end, but when executed correctly, the outcome is fantastic.”
Opened in 2017, this Islington seafood house is named after the previous use of the reconditioned space it occupies. The second restaurant from the team behind Primeur, another Islington eatery, chef David Gingell wanted to create a modern environment with a relaxed ambience, serving high-quality food without fuss.
The semi-industrial space, characterized by high ceilings and artful lighting, features communal tables and counter eating, perfect for the small sharing plates of British food with a Spanish twist served by the restaurant. And like Neptune, dishes are accompanied by a selection of low intervention wines.
Gingell also sources his seafood from independent suppliers in Cornwall. “Rather than batch-buying pre-prepared fish we like to buy our seafood whole, so we take care of it from start to finish,” said Gingell. “It’s high in quality, travels well and it’s great for our kitchen to spend time mongering the whole fish.”