Think you know Fitzrovia and Marylebone? Here's my guide to all you need for a life less ordinary in W1W
When I need a pint: Mason’s Arms, Devonshire St
When I need a coffee: Kaffeine, Great Titchfield St
When I need a naughty burger: Tommi’s Burger Joint, Thayer St
When I need a haircut: King’s Canary, Great Titchfield St
When I need an amazing breakfast: Riding House Cafe, Great Titchfield St
When I need an amazing lunch: The Providores, Marylebone High St
When I need an amazing dinner: Dabbous, Whitfield St
When I need to mingle with minor celebs: 108, Marylebone Lane
When I need to win over a date: Bourne & Hollingsworth, Rathbone Place
When I need to drink big red wines: Iberica, Great Portland St
When I need mind-blowing fresh seafood: Bonnie Gull (obviously!), Foley St
When I need pisco sours: Lima, Rathbone Place
When I need to pump my bike tyre: Velorution, Great Portland St
When I need to not remember what happened the night before: Reverend JW Thompson, Goodge St
When I (need to) hang with BBC folk: Crown & Sceptre, Foley St
When I need meat (no not like that!): The Ginger Pig, Moxon St
When I need cheese: Fromagerie, Moxon St
When I need a cup of good old fashioned builder’s tea: The Ship’s Galley, Hanson St
When I need to buy someone flowers: Moyses Stevens (Villandry), Great Portland St
When I need to buy clothes I can’t afford: Sandro, Marylebone High St
When I need a proper no frills sandwich: Adams Eatery, Great Portland St
I often think when tourists come to Britain, London in particular, they must find our obsession with the weather bizarre.
To the rest of the world our weather is crap – they know it and are mystified as to why we can’t accept it. We spend 48 weeks a year complaining about rain and cold and the other 4 complaining it’s too hot. As a Scotsman, I know all about having a moan but North of the border we do a lot less complaining about the weather despite it being even worse. To be fair it’s so undeniably crap up there that all we can do is accept it and crack on with life .
Despite the odd grumble about the heat I must say it’s wonderful to be able to use our outdoor dining at the Seafood Shack as well as showcase our summery daily menus. My lunch of Cornish octopus, tomato water, Isle of Wight tomatoes, cucumber & lemon oil hit the note perfectly today. Vegetarians might want to try Gav’s cucumber and almond gazpacho washed down with a cool glass of Michel Vattan - Hauts de Maimbray rosé perhaps.
A lot of people say their mood is affected by the weather – well if that’s the case smile folks cause it won’t get better than this. Personally as long as there are fish in the sea and drink in my glass I’ll be smiling whatever the weather. And if Andy Murray can win Wimbledon in 50C on Center Court and the boys in our kitchen can bang out cracking seafood dishes in even hotter conditions then what right have we got to complain?
On this gloriously sunny recent Sunday I took a little trip to Mersea Island, home of The Company Shed.
The Shed has something of a cult status amongst the South East’s seafood lovers and was a big inspiration to Danny and I when we visited whilst fine tuning the Bonnie Gull concept. It is literally a shed on the beach where fresh seafood is brought in off a little boat out the back and served, ultra fresh and simple to diners who supply their own bread, booze and even glassware. Now ok it’s not all 100% local (the lobster had a distinctly Canadian look about it) but some of the produce is excellent and there aren’t many places in the UK where you can get a fresh seafood platter for under £15!
On Sunday’s visit we arrived at 1pm to find a sign outside they were taking no more sittings for the day – such was the sudden influx of London hipsters making the dash from the city over the bank holiday weekend. However we did manage to negotiate some ‘take away’ products to munch on the bench outside whilst swigging a few cans of Red Stripe – rich hot smoked salmon, smoked mackerel pate and some of the best rollmops I’ve ever had.
Although our ‘shack’ in Fitzrovia is somewhat smarter than the Shed the principle of no frills, quality fresh produce was the main thing we took away and a philosophy we will always stick to with our brand. In case you’re interested here are the other places that were part of our research and inspiration for creating Bonnie Gull.
The Mussel Inn, Edinburgh: www.mussel-inn.com
This legendary Rose St eatery bangs out 400 covers a day over its 50 seats. With good fresh seafood at very reasonable prices it’s a steady favourite amongst tourists and locals alike.
The John Dory Oyster Bar, New York: www.thejohndory.com
Less reasonable but far more impressive. This fantastic looking restaurant at the back of the Ace Hotel has one of the best raw bar’s I’ve been to. It also does banging cocktails.
Lobster Alive, Barbados www.lobsteralive.net
OK I didn’t go all the way to Barbados just to do research for Bonnie Gull but this beach shack was certainly a must-visit for me. It’s owned by a retired doctor who flies a little seaplane to St Lucia every week and fills it up with spiney lobster which he then transfers to the biggest live lobster tank you’ve ever seen. He then plays live jazz with his other cronies, ‘The Crustaceans’, whilst you tuck in to lobster and Banks beer. Inspiration not just for my restaurant but also my retirement!