Due to the sun’s alignment to…I forget which planet exactly, at 2.45am on March 11th 19-sometime or other, I am predestined to love fish, water and, according to a magazine I once read, toe sucking. I must admit, I do love fish: raw, baked, smoked, breaded, poached, you name it, and I have been known to snorkel, so that’s water ticked, but the latter? No thank you very much. To quote Meat Loaf, ‘I would do anything for love, but I (certainly) won’t do that’.
So yes, as a sensitive, caring, generous, water-based-animal-loving Piscean, I was rather looking forward to visiting The Fish Place, a month-old addition to Battersea. Though, I must point out that at this stage I was initially wooed by their promise of a free glass of champers for those born into the twelfth astrological sign (Drew Barrymore, Spike Lee and David Niven, to name a few fine examples). Needless to say, after a selfless 2-hour gluttonous session, I discovered there are far finer reasons to visit. So fine in fact, that I would gladly venture, via bus, train and foot, south west again and possibly again, just for another taste of the food and service that I, and my partner-in-dine Adam, sampled.
The Fish Place is not the easiest venue to find, unless you rock up by boat. The Thames riverside location, although aesthetic, means it’s nigh on impossible to see from the entrance to the estate behind. It took a ten-minute wander around New Bridges Wharf, and help from the adjacent hotel, before we spotted it. Nothing like a pre-dinner challenge to build up the appetite.
It’s a very suave round glass-fronted building, which glows welcomingly with dimmed lighting; making its presence known with a whispered come hither, rather than bellowing to onlookers with bright spotlights. It’s pleasingly small, around 30 seats upstairs, and at only half capacity on the Thursday night we visited, the other diners were barely noticeable around us.
The name suggests they might’ve gone for fish-image overload, but no, the décor is spot on and the sort one might enquire about purchasing. The oil paintings especially, and the waved effect on one side of the upstairs dining area which plays tricks with your eyes, giving the impression of movement, is also pretty neat.
The tables, cleanly laid, with the type of cool cutlery you’d want to smuggle home in your handbag (for the record, I’ve never done this), and dainty open pots of cracked black pepper and sea salt with a minute spoon to serve them with. As it happens, the seasoning was so spot on we didn’t use them, though there are always those irritating people who feel the need to add s&p without even tasting the dish first. The plates too, throughout the eve, were enormous and the perfect palettes to offset the artfully arranged bites; a good thing when tricking your brain into convincing your stomach that three generous courses and petit fours is a doable challenge.
When a menu is this good, it can take me an annoyingly long time to settle on my dishes, so I had perused the offerings online before we arrived. I still couldn’t decide, so I asked the waiter for his advice. His passionate description of the scallops, which I was already swaying towards, was enough to make me settle on them. The truffled Jerusalem artichoke and chicken jus served with them, sounded delicious and odd respectively. Adam was about to settle on the chowder, but I managed to steer him towards my second choice of Dorset crab tortellini, by putting ‘it’ll fill you up too much for you to enjoy your main’ and ‘mm, freshly made pasta’ thoughts into his head. It worked, so he went for that.
First up we were treated to an amuse bouche of prawn, celeriac puree and beurre blanc – think sweet, crisp-edged, meaty prawns with just the perfect salty and creamy balance of sauces in one spoonful. Good canapé material. Warm carrot and semolina bread rolls, with a dome of what looked like freshly churned butter – kept our hands busy until the starters arrived.
The scallops were seared beautifully, producing a combination of sweet, crisp and soft textures, the artichoke and meaty jus providing dreamy accompaniments. Great with the Quartese Ruggeri Prosecco we’d chosen as our tipple for the evening. Adam’s three large tortellini were as al dente as they should be and, so he reckoned, better than my starter. I disagreed, the sauce being just a touch too creamy for me. The foam, however, managed to be rather tasty, something chefs don’t always achieve.
Plates cleared and, hooray, another amuse bouche – I do like these unexpected treats. This time, a candyfloss pink rhubarb sorbet which was so fine it reminded me of the fresh powder from my days as a Val d’Isere seasonnair; a wonderful way to clean the palate before our main courses.
Adam’s seafood pot au feu arrived more elegantly presented than we’d expected, with the seabass and salmon flaking away beautifully, and the accompanying shellfish adding a buttery, meaty element. Full marks! My cod was absolutely faultless, a hefty, soft fillet which induced a considerable amount of joy, with lovely flavours of oxtail, red wine and leek puree seducing my taste buds.
It’s not often I want everything on the dessert list, but I managed to settle on the very-in-season blood orange cheesecake. Adam went for the Grand Marnier soufflé. Both had the desired wow factor as they were put before us, a visual ‘open sesame’ to our now pretty full stomachs. And the taste, boy they were good: the fresh citrus fruit balanced perfectly with the rich cheesecake and sweet coconut tuille. The fondant was light as air and steaming with the rich liquor.
There aren’t many restaurants which motivate me to take the hasslesome route from north to south west London, but The Fish Place managed to charm me and my guest in everyway possible. The food, impeccable service, view, darn it, even the mandarin-scented toilets, are all reasons why it deserves some love from the public. You’d be hard pushed to fault it, especially if you’re a Champagne-quaffing Piscean.
The Fish Place, Vicentia Court, Bridges Court Rd, London SW11 3RD. Tel: 020 7095 0410. Website.