Bouillabaisse – Coastal Cuisine in the heart of Mayfair:
Finding a niche in the crowded London restaurant market is quite a challenge. Picking a style of cuisine, whether that be street food, fine dining or a regionally based concept allows for relatively simple sourcing and a kitchen that can be staffed with specialists. By comparison, although seafood restaurants are nothing new, attempting to distill the best from the World’s coastlines is ambitious and, to a certain extent counter-intuitive. While we all know that strawberries in December are not local produce, ever since air transport became affordable there has been a return to locally sourced ingredients. The idea behind Bouillabaisse is to serve the best from around the world and, as the name suggests, to offer a signature Bouillabaisse as good as anything you might find in the South of France.
It’s a cosy and intimate place, styled to look like the fusion of fishing huts and restaurants from around the world. We arrive to enjoy a plate of Crudites and flat breads with home made hummus and anchovy dip, while we get to know Larry the Lobster a bit better. There are no plans for us to eat him, though his claws are firmly tied to make sure he doesn’t try to make a quick exit.
Chef Jordan Sclare, who has worked alongside Kurt Zdesar (of Chotto Matte and Nobu fame), tells us that they believe the Bouillabaisse offering is unique. There are just two meat based main dishes (a T-Bone Steak and a Chicken Schnitzel) for customers who can’t face a pescatarian dinner and the offering includes a whole range of fish dishes cooked in a wood-fired oven. And, he assures us, we will be tasting the ultimate Bouillabaisse, one that took months of research and recipe testing to perfect.
Meanwhile, dishes are arriving at some speed. We all love the Hebridean Langoustine and wild seabass carpaccio which is served scattered with basil, piquillo peppers and wild rocket.
Lobster ravioli is good too – I probably spend a little too much time trying to find more bits of snow crab and bay prawns than I should.
Each of us is served with a small bowl of bouillabaisse, complete with accompaniments of rouille (garlic mayonnaise with chilli), a crouton of toasted french bread and grated gruyere cheese. Of course it is good, though I am no expert on authenticity and in any case our taster portions don’t allow any insight into the fish used. On the menu the list price is £52 which seems expensive – I suspect that is to share around a table, like the seafood platter (£68.50).
We all happily tuck in to a risotto nero with grilled baby octopus. A great comfort food dish, it vanished in a trice. I love the nutty rice topped off with tiny morsels of octopus and am slightly irritated that I’m sharing.
This evil looking beast is a line caught Mexican whole pink grouper. Cooked on a barbecue grill, the result is a firm and fine tasting fish. Along with a barbecued skate wing (not pictured) and some sautee potatoes and spinach we are all left feeling totally replete.
There are desserts though – a pretty vanilla creme brulee with berries which came with a fine crisp caramel topping
And a stunning andoa noire 70% chocolate cake with vanilla ice-cream.
Some of the fish dishes at Bouillabaisse really stand out – for me, the risotto nero, which I’d happily feast on all night and the delicious carpaccio in particular. I’m not totally convinced though and I can’t quite work out why as everything is good quality and well cooked. Mayfair is an expensive part of town and the sea-shack styling seems a little incongruous with the pricing. And, I am a big fan of some of the well established seafood restaurants that focus on produce sourced a little closer to home (J Sheekey, Scotts, Randall and Aubin and Wright Brothers for example) and of the Sushi and Nikkei restaurants (including Chotto Matte, where chef Jordan Sclare is also in charge of the kitchen) that specialise in one particular regional cuisine. Perhaps our sampling menu was just a little too cosmopolitan for me? I really like the look of the lunch set menu though, with a range of dishes including a bouillabaisse at £18.50 per person – and a free beer or soft drink to wash it all down.
With many thanks to the team at Bouillabaisse for an excellent evening.
4 Mill Street, Mayfair
LONDON, W1S 2AX