To say that the flagship branch of this seafood restaurant is dinky is a serious understatement. On a weekend evening, just getting into the building can make you feel like an unwitting participant in a game of human pinball. But once in, it’s the teensiness that makes it so vibey. It’s a buzzy little room of high-backed stools full of quirky seafood-based decor (cutlery in an old anchovy can, mannequin holding an oyster knife) whose kitchen is so open plan that there’s literally nowhere you can sit without hearing the sizzle of frying fish. Seriously, you can see everything: the furiously shucking chefs, the blue fly-killing lights, the metal sink in which a moustachioed lookalike of a retired 1980s German footballer scrubs dishes. Everything.
The cooking trades off the freshness of the seafood sourced by the restaurant’s specialist wholesale company. Each seat comes with a ready-made revolving iron circle built into the counter to host a platter of crustaceans, with most diners sitting in front of hubcap-sized metal dishes of crushed ice with oysters splayed in their midst. Even if you’re a member of the ‘they taste like a mouthful of dirty seawater’ brigade, the shellfish is worth trying. Baked oysters Rockefeller came with a slight aniseed tang to lighten a spinachy topping as rich as the financier they’re named after. A starter of meaty whelks as pretty as Guylian chocolates was served simply with a sweet mayo. Crustaceans aside, a cuttlefish stew was all squidgy hunks of mollusc swimming amid tendrils of cavolo nero. The fish pie was comfort in a mouthful: mash so smooth it dissolved into the roux to create a sort of chunky fish-and-cheese soup full of smoky nuggets of haddock and salmon.
The only drawback is that, despite the waiting staff’s hugely cheery demeanour and Herculanean work rate, the restaurant is slightly too miniature to fit in enough servers. But this is a very small downside to an enjoyably busy little eatery, where the seafood could only taste fresher if you gobbled it from nets.