Thursday, September 6, 2012
There’s a new restaurant in London. In Camden, to be specific. And like most things in Camden, you can’t miss it when you walk by. Why? Because it has the biggest sign you’ve ever seen. Simply Fish simply can’t be missed. But can its food? Its service? Its ambiance?
Simply Fish just opened. So recently, in fact, that its opening hasn’t even been announced yet. The restaurant’s newness might explain why you’ve never heard of it. I was invited to have dinner there last week with a few journalists to review the restaurant before the grand opening. Here’s how it went…
The space itself is a long, narrow dining room with a take-away counter at the front and an open kitchen at the back. In the middle are wooden tables with benches that are too high for anyone’s feet to touch the ground. Fine if you are a kindergartener, but a bit tough on the knees if you are over the age of 6 or under the height of 6’6”.
The fact that the front of the restaurant is open to the elements also means that as soon as the sun goes down, you have to huddle into your jacket to keep from freezing. At least I did. And this was summer.
But overall it isn’t bad. The atmosphere is pleasant and the lighting attractive, so I can’t complain about Simply Fish’s dining room.
Neither can I complain about the food. The menu consists of a plethora of fish and seafood options, as the name of the restaurant implies. It also offers a range of create-your-own main courses, with a choice of fish, styles of preparing it, and things to go with it.
The platter my table shared at the beginning of the meal was full of good food, from plump prawns to lightly fried calamari. My main course of sea bream with a curry sauce and jasmine rice was also good, particularly the fresh fish (although the fish was substituted because they were out of the one listed on the menu).
Likewise, the wine was good. We shared a bottle of The Journeymaker Chenin Blanc 2011 from South Africa, which went well with the seafood.
What wasn’t good about Simply Fish was the service. From the waitress ignoring us for too long at the beginning—we had to call her repeatedly before she deigned to take our order—to the fact that she didn’t bring the second seafood platter we ordered—maybe she thought the other table in our group looked hungry, because they ended up getting it—the service disappointed.
That’s to say nothing of the fact that the first main course I ordered, steamed mussels—was brought to the table about three years before anyone else’s food arrived. By the time someone finally encouraged me to start eating, the mussels were so cold that I had to send them back. I was so put off by the cool, rubbery texture that I had to order a different main. That dish came significantly ahead some of the mains of the others at my table.
When we finished our mains, we had the option of ordering dessert, but I opted out. As I left the restaurant, I passed by the take-away counter at the front and realized that it might be a better option than the sit-down service.
The take-away window is where I will be going if I return to Simply Fish again. I would go back to the restaurant for the food (do they do take-away for wine, too?), but not for the service. Not until the kinks are worked out, anyway. Hopefully they will be in time.