Swallow Street, London
We were in London to review a show and decided we’d like to dine afterwards, somewhere we hadn’t tried before. Fishworks have two venues, one in Marylebone and the other on Swallow Street, the latter just a ten minute walk from the Wyndham Theatre. It being a Saturday evening, amidst the general chaos of the Lumiere Festival, we booked in advance a couple of days beforehand. On arrival, we were delighted to see that the venue had its own fishmonger right there on site, a huge marble slad laden with ice and displaying an impressive array of fishy delights, so there was clearly no danger of the ingredients not being fresh enough. The place was packed but our seats were all ready for us and though the tables were all fairly close to each other, the atmosphere was convivial and the staff pleasant and attentive.
We were 0n a budget so we opted for the set menu, which offered two courses for £18.95 or £21.95 for three, which in the heart of the capital is excellent value. I began with the Brixham fish soup, served with Gruyere croutons and a small bowl of rouille, a light sauce of olive oil, garlic, saffron and chilli peppers. The soup was delicious, thick and smooth, with a real depth of flavour. Susan opted for a bowl of steamed mussels, in a white wine and garlic sauce, served with lemon thyme and shallots. This too was spot on and happily didn’t feature any cream, which is generally the easiest way to spoil a bowl of mussels.
For the main course, I ordered the homemade fishcake with buttered spinach and hollandaise. I’m a big fan of the humble fishcake, but it’s surprising how many chefs manage to get it wrong. How often have we been served something that resembles a deep fried hockey puck? No such problems here, though. The generously proportioned fish cake was light, feathery, delicately spiced and augmented by a rich Hollandaise sauce, which made it an absolute delight. Susan had the fillet of sea bream, served on a bed of shaved cucumber, with a chilli and mint salad. Again, just as it should be, light, cooked just so. We shared a side portion of chips, which were old-school good, crispy and scrumptious, with no oily aftertaste.
Unusually, we eschewed pudding and both ordered a second glass of the rather pleasant sauvignon blanc that is Fishwork’s house wine. And then it was out onto the street to fight our way through the packed crowds gawping at the illuminations floating in the air above us. We made it back to Euston station by the skin of our teeth.
Fishworks has a lot going for it. If you feel like splashing out, the a la carte offers a selection of more indulgent delights and there’s a daily selection of specials chalked up on boards around the venue. Amidst the ubiquitous chain restaurants that seem to dominate theatre-land, this is a little gem worth seeking out.