Having moved out of London to rural Wales four years ago, I miss the city’s incredible diversity and quality of restaurants enormously. But we visit family regularly, and each time I cherish the opportunity to eat out at old favourites and exciting newcomers. Often, I lean towards the cuisines of East and South East Asia (which are hard to find in our new home region, and represented so well in London). This time, I really fancied seafood!
I have a few ways of finding and choosing restaurants for upcoming London visits. One is to stalk the social media feeds of London friends and food-lovers, saving those that appeal to review ahead of the next trip. Word of mouth from those I trust is always helpful. Another way is to browse the OpenTable booking platform which allows me to filter by neighbourhood, cuisine, and price range. Scores and reviews from other customers help me narrow down the best places. That’s how I chose and booked The Seafood Bar on Soho’s Dean Street for a recent Sunday lunch with friends.
I’ve been seeing reference to this Dutch modern seafood restaurant chain for some time; it’s hugely successful in its country of origin, the Netherlands where it was launched by Fons de Visscher, a respected fishmonger from Helmond. He opened his first restaurant in Amsterdam in 2012, later opening two more in the same city and another in Utrecht. The family’s first overseas branch opened in Soho, London in 2021. What drew me to The Seafood Bar was a reputation for fresh, good quality, sustainably-sourced fish and seafood, and prices that seem very reasonable for London.
The restaurant is bright and spacious. White dining furniture and bar contrast with exposed brick walls, a wooden floor, and a large neon crab to draw the eye. On the day of our visit, the restaurant wasn’t busy, with just three or four tables occupied during our lunch.
There were a lot of starters that tempted including the clams and crab cakes my friends had, as well as Shrimps in Garlic Butter (£9.50), Roast Scallop in the shell with shimeji mushrooms and chorizo red wine jus (£7.50 per piece), and the Bowl of Crevettes (£14).
If you have enough of you that enjoy a wide variety of seafood, a chilled Fruits de Mer platter would make an excellent communal dish. These are priced at £35 per person, but would serve more than one as a shared starter.
After a lot of dithering I’m glad I chose the Tempura Oysters with Wakame and Asian Sauce (£12). Served hot from the fryer, these were large, plump oysters in a crisp, light batter. I loved the slippery crunch of wakame served in the shell below the oyster, and the subtle Asian flavours of the dish. The bed of dressed salad was also good, decently dressed and tasty rather than mere garnish.
The flavours in the Clams with White wine, Garlic and Cream Sauce (£12.50) were wonderful, the clams sweet and fresh, and the sauce rich, creamy and garlicky, yet light enough not to overpower the clams. We appreciated the generosity of the sauce too; a big hunk of fresh bread would have been perfect with this, but all of us were conscious of saving space for some hefty main courses to come.
When the Crab Cakes with Citrus Mayonnaise (£12.50) arrived, they looked like a huge portion but these were far lighter and fluffier than most crab cakes we’d all tried before, hence not nearly as filling. The filling was delicious with a decent crab flavour and freshness from the herbs.
On to the mains and the first to arrive at the table was Wild-caught Gambas, Salsa Verde & Chilli (£24), a generous plate of six large prawns grilled on the plancha, dressed with salsa verde and chilli and served with half a lemon. Judging from how quiet my friend became as she focused on peeling and eating these, they were very good indeed! Two of us also had one each of these huge prawns included in our mixed grills.
Note that the mains don’t come with any vegetables, so you’ll need to order those as extras. We got a Green salad (£4.50) alongside the gambas.
The Mixed Grill (£35 per person) is a showstopper of a dish, and one of The Seafood Bar’s signatures alongside their Fruits de Mer. On the plate was a generous mountain of salmon fillet, seabass filet, a shrimp skewer, squid rigs, slip sole, one large king prawn, and a big pile of mussels in tomato sauce. The seafood was fresh, perfectly cooked, and delicious, and the tomato sauce a thing of beauty – made with tomatoes, chilli oil and salsa verde it had a deeply savoury profile with a mild kick of chilli heat, a hint of sweet fruitiness, and a subtle herbiness. There was also a pot of fabulously pungent garlic sauce which we liked more than the tartare we thought it was at first glance!
Like the gambas, the mixed grill doesn’t come with any vegetables (other than a garnish of samphire and half a lemon) but it’s a big portion so you may find (like us) that you don’t need any. If you do, there are choices including Chips (£5.5), Boiled potatoes with butter & chives (£5), Grilled baby gem with fresh garden peas (£5.5), Broccoli roasted sunflower seeds (£7.5), Lobster mac n cheese (£14), Sweet potato fries (£5.5) and Green salad (£4.5).
The fourth main, Fish & Chips (£19), was the one disappointment of the meal. Described as a fillet of haddock, fried in the restaurant’s signature batter, the batter was thick and heavy, and both batter and fish were overcooked, the fish in particular. It came with adequate chips, tartar sauce and salad but isn’t a dish we can recommend.
For anyone in your group who eats fish but isn’t a fan of crustaceans, shell fish and cephalopods, they might try instead dishes such as Nordic Blu teriyaki salmon (£22.5), Whole lemon sole (£24), Whole sea bream with rosemary & thyme (£24.5), or Fillet of cod with a white wine & cream sauce (£22.5). There’s even a chicken dish and a couple of veggie options if you need them.
Another part of the menu I’d like to try on a future visit is the list of Oysters with five different varieties on offer at the time of our visit. I’ll try and time this for their Oyster Happy Hour where it’s just £1.50 per oyster between 3 pm and 5 pm every day.
Between the four of us we enjoyed three starters, four mains, and one side dish plus a cocktail, two glasses of celebratory champagne, two beers, and a glass of white wine. Our bill came to £207 with 15% service taking it to £238. This isn’t a meal that could ever be classed as cheap eats – it’s firmly in the “spendy” category – but averaging between £50 and £60 a head, it’s well priced for ingredients and cooking of this quality, in such a coveted Soho location.
This post was commissioned by OpenTable. The meal was booked and paid for by us as a normal, personal visit to the restaurant, and the review content is fully independent.