Steak and Seafood at The Coal Shed – One Tower Bridge:
When an invitation to review The Coal Shed in Brighton came up a year or so ago, it went the way of The-Hedonist, who just happens to spend half his time in the Sussex countryside and is only a stone’s throw from my favourite South Coast seaside destination, Brighton. He liked it more than just a lot – so when we finally got a chance to visit the London outpost, I decided it was one I should keep for myself.
One Tower Bridge is an unmistakably up-market London address. A newish development with restaurants, bars and even a new theatre, residential property here is stratospherically priced (one bedroom flats WITHOUT a river view are around the million pound mark). The Coal Shed, a relaxed establishment with an excellent wine list, some great cocktails and a menu that revolves around perfectly cooked steaks and seafood is well placed. It’s a location with a mix of wealthy residents, well-heeled workers and the occasional tourist straying off the popular Tower Bridge and river towpath. In the circumstances, all credit to The Coal Shed for a menu which remains accessibly priced.
We popped in one lunchtime and, despite the best intentions to order separately, were quickly lured into ordering sharing dishes both as a starter and main course. In addition to those on the menu, there’s a chalkboard where you’ll find one-off listings of fish and steak. It could just have been worth dragging someone in from the street for the Wild Seabass…
Our waiter recommended a bottle of Collezione 50 red wine from San Marzano Puglia made with primativo and negroamaro grapes, a fruity complex wine with notes of vanilla and licorice which worked well with our starter and perhaps even better once it had breathed a little with the steak we ordered for the main course.
To start, a ‘SurfBoard’ of shellfish and calamari all beautifully charred on the Josper and served with samphire, a dollop of mayo and a charred lemon.
I loved picking my way through the prawns and langoustine and would have happily feasted on just the pot of buttery scallops. A generous helping, it would easily have served 3 as a starter though we enjoyed the indulgence of one between two. It’s a platter that is listed on the menu as a main course and would be a fine choice for that too.
We couldn’t agree on our sharing steak. I’d have chosen the Chateaubriand, though I appreciate that a Josper grilled fillet is perhaps not the perfect choice. My companion would have opted for the ribeye. In the end, we chose the porterhouse, which has a larger proportion of fillet to sirloin steak. And, if I am honest, cooked medium rare, it was not the best choice as the fillet was a little dry compared with the sirloin.
No fault of the kitchen at The Coal Shed – more of our lack of compromise. If the fillet wasn’t quite as rare and bloody as I’d have liked it, the sirloin element surprised me by being meltingly tender and utterly delicious (all that extra fat!). And, that fabulous char which somehow brings out all the sweetness of a good steak!
Along with the steaks we ordered a portion of chips and one of baby gem with blue cheese, peas, onion and bacon. Both delicious, I was particularly impressed with the flavour combination in the baby gem dish.
Dessert, purely for the sake of research, was another sharing platter which we both agreed had a good combination of options.
I loved the mini doughnut and the tiny macaron. I have to confess, despite the chocolate, ‘coal’ did little for me. But, I was extremely full by this stage and in all honesty what I really wanted was the excellent double espresso I was served!
Lunch at The Coal Shed was all I had anticipated and more. It’s an unpretentious place with a semi-open kitchen and friendly, efficient staff. It was rightly buzzing at 1.30 pm on a Tuesday when we turned up to eat but despite a change of team mid-service, there wasn’t a hiccup.
And, it is a truly fabulous location. I’m keen to visit the new Bridge Theatre, currently showing Allelujah! a work by Alan Bennett that sounds intriguing.
For now, I’m glad that this side of the river still seems to escape the throngs of visitors you’ll find around the tower itself. Because that means I should be able to get a seat at The Coal Shed without too much trouble.
The Coal Shed
1 Tower Bridge, Crown Square, London SE1 (020 3384 7272; coalshed-restaurantlondon.co.uk)