Posted on Monday, 20th December 2010
It has to be said that eating in a restaurant with no other guests feels rather odd – it makes for a deathly quiet experience. That is what happened to me when I visited The Fish Place as a guest of the restaurant recently. It opened in the middle of November, and is situated in a rather obscure spot, right near the heliport in Battersea overlooking the Thames. It’s pretty tricky to find, and the best way seems to be to look for the Hotel Verta and head to the left of it (you’ll get what I mean if you ever decide to go and look for the restaurant). I imagine not being on some major thoroughfare, its newness, and the fact that it was bitterly cold when I went were the reasons behind the zilch guest list.
But let’s talk about the food. As you probably guessed, this is a seafood restaurant. For the first amuse bouche, we had the fish veloute with pernod and parsley cream which is also listed as a starter on the menu. Thick and creamy, this was really lovely and nicely reduced to produce a good strong flavour of seafood.
A second amuse of potato gnocchi with prawn and chicken stock was very pleasant. The seasoning in the stock was a touch heavy, but otherwise the prawn was sweet and the gnocchi light and fluffy.
To starters, pan-fried king black prawns were lovely and sweet, although I would have liked a greater charred effect on the prawns for more flavour. It came with crispy bacon and puy lentil vinaigrette. The lentils were well cooked, tender and worked well with the flavour of the bacon, although the use of cos and lamb’s lettuce in the dish made it feel quite summery rather than wintry.
Seared Devon scallops were nicely cooked and well seasoned. The deep fried sage was crispy and provided a nice textural contrast to the sweetness of the scallop and the creaminess of the pumpkin purée. However, there was slightly too much purée relative to the size of the scallops.
A palate cleanser of lemon yoghurt and gin sorbet was yoghurt-y and creamy, although it tasted very alcoholic as you got towards the bottom of the glass.
To mains, and I loved the crispiness of the skin on a dish of pan-seared wild sea bass with sauteed potatoes, baby spinach, black prawns and creamy fish sauce. The potatoes were nice and buttery, but a smidgen under done. Unlike the other prawns that we had eaten, one of the prawns in this dish was a bit mushy. The sauce, creamy, light and nicely reduced, demonstrated very good technique.
Pot au feu of seafood came with a mussel risotto, pan-fried sea bass, pan-fried Scottish salmon, a black tiger prawn and chive beurre blanc sauce. The fish skins were wonderfully crispy, although the salmon was overcooked and dry. Otherwise all the other components of the dish were nicely cooked, including a risotto which had a nice bite to it. This was a hearty and satisfying dish.
A dessert of caramelised pear cheesecake came with well caramelised pears which were tender and sweet. The cheesecake itself could have been sweeter as it was a little sour, and the vanilla tuille was very bland.
An orange and chocolate tart with chocolate fondant and blackberry coulis was all texture and no flavour. Other than a hint of orange, it didn’t really taste of anything. I couldn’t help but feel that the chef had skimped on the ingredients in this dessert. This was a disappointing pudding.
Petit fours included a mini pistachio macaroon which was hard rather than soft and gooey in the centre, and a chocolate truffle which had a nice texture but was a bit bland.
I wasn’t enamoured with the desserts, but the seafood dishes were rather good and showed sound technique. Overall, the food was robust, hearty and comforting, and at £37.50 for two courses, it was reasonably priced (£45 for three courses, although I wouldn’t bother getting dessert). But despite the reasonably good food, sitting through a meal with no ambience was just a wee bit dull. You need other guests for a bit of vibe. Perhaps on another night it might have been busier.
The service was reasonable. One of the waiters was really friendly and chatty, although another was a bit awkward.
I don’t understand why The Fish Place picked the location that it did. I imagine dining al fresco style overlooking the Thames during the summer is going to be really nice. But we still have to get through the winter. If the restaurant doesn’t pick up soon, the only concern might be that it may feel the squeeze on its margins and start cutting costs, which would not a good thing where food is involved.