Bonnie Gull describes itself as a “seafood café in the city”. With one location in London’s Fitzrovia and another in Exmouth Market, Bonnie Gull has picked up popularity as it popped up in temporary locations around the city last year.
Now, this review has an interesting story behind it as I was attending the restaurant with a friend who had been invited back after a not-so-great first experience. As an apology she had been offered 50% off food as well as a bottle of wine and cocktails for two, completely on the house. A generous offer for what was apparently very poor service overshadowing very good food.
Situations aside, this was my first trip to Bonnie Gull so I set off with an open mind and an empty stomach.
Bonnie Gull’s seafood café, situated in Exmouth Market, lives in a beautiful duck egg blue building, with seaside-esque awning covering the café front. The seaside theme continues inside with wooden floors, a lot of rope and more blue and white. Nautical nonsense aside, I was warmly greeted by the restaurant manager who invited me to sit sat down and offered me a glass of prosecco as I waited for my friend to arrive.
As I sipped the prosecco and browsed the menu I couldn’t help but eat over half my fair share of bread that had been left on the table. I was hungry and it was good! Despite clearly looking like I was waiting for my dining partner to arrive I was asked twice over a ten-minute period whether I was ready to order. No, not yet thanks…
To the surprise of the restaurant staff (I jest) she finally arrived and ordered a Bonnie Collin’s on the house – a cocktail made up of gin, lemon juice, elderflower, mint, cucumber and soda water.
As we were lucky enough to have 50% off we decided to go all out, order 3 starters, one main to share between us, and two desserts! As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, everything on the menu is of the seafood nature – which we both love. Taking my friends recommendations from her previous visit we decided to go for the Dorset Cockles, Po’ Boy Roll and the Lobster Roll.
The Dorset Cockles with cider and pancetta (above) was delicious. They were salty and went well with the pancetta. The Cockney Po’Boy (below left) was Bonnie Gull’s take on a Creole classic – consisting of deep fried oysters. I wanted to like it, but they’d made it pretty hard. The bread was dry, there was too much of it and when you’re eating anything battered it’s almost essential to have something saucy and moist served with it!
The Lobster Roll was different all together. Firstly it was cold – a bit like prawn cocktail. It was nicely presented in a brioche roll but not very starter-y if you ask me. In fact neither of the rolls were.
Starters half eaten it was time for the main event. I’d heard good things about Bonnie Gull’s Smash Your Own Crab, so I was pretty excited for it to arrive. Despite seeing the waitress take a detour with our 1kg Cock Crab (twice!) as she realised we were still munching our starters, I was right to be excited for it.
Served on a large wooden chopping board, you’re given a hammer (to smash your crab), flame-grilled brown meat, cold white meat and a slice of sourdough toast. Quite the main meal!
The flame-grilled brown meat was my favorite, it had so much flavour, spread on the warm sourdough toast it was the highlight of the dish. I also enjoyed the fresh lighter texture of the white meat, which went well with the dipping sauce. Overall it was a smashing (excuse the pun) dish and I thoroughly enjoyed it.
With the hope of finishing off the evening on a high we ordered a slice of Millionaires Shortbread. It was scrummy! Decorated with candied almonds and a dollop of clotted cream we couldn’t complain. We ordered a “side” of Cornish fudge to go with it which was yum, yum, yum!
If I had to rate Bonnie Gull out of 10, I’d struggle to give a confident answer. The Smash Your Own Crab was excellent and the rest of the experience was average. The service was very attentive – after all they did know we were visiting at a discount rate because my friends last experience hadn’t been so great. The thought behind Bonnie Gull is exciting, bringing a seaside cafe to the city. As for the wow factor? It’s just not there.
ADDRESS: 55-57, Exmouth Market, London EC1R 4QL
OPENING TIMES: 12pm – 11pm Monday to Saturday and 12pm – 5pm Sunday