“ Great Eastern Hotel / Liverpool Street / EC2M 7NH / Tel: 020 7618 7200. „
The Fishmarket restaurant is situated in the Great Eastern Hotel next to Liverpool Street Station in London. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the area, the Great Eastern Hotel does not have the most welcoming of exteriors, being rather East End and quite frankly, old, in appearance, but behind the ancient facade lies a hotel to compete with the best of the modern bunch. A room here will set you back £300+ during the week without breakfast! The designer hotel (Conran) is also home to a number of restaurants, of which Fishmarket is one, playing host to the myriad of City bankers and their entourage every day.
As its name suggests, Fishmarket is a fish restaurant. Do not go here expecting a steak or a vegetarian lasagne, you will be disappointed. Do not go here either if the thought of a fish that looks like a fish greeting you from your plate is just too much to stomach, you will get heads, eyes, tails, the lot! Do not go here either if you are expecting a cheap quick lunch. This venue is neither cheap nor quick!
OK. So those are the reasons not to go, what about the pluses?
I am a fish lover. There is a caveat here though. My fish must be so fresh that I can smell the sea and not the fish. Fishmarket comes up trumps here. The menu is fairly simple yet refined and the catch of the day will change as it should, giving you the feeling that they are not just defrosting 100 salmon fillets from the freezer and claiming that the chef caught them in Scotland that morning.
Forget fancy dishes, think fish and think simple (they only have a three second memory you know!). Think baked cod, salmon and smoked haddock fish cakes. Think platters of oysters and fresh crab or lobster. Do not think prawn cocktail (although you can get this) or crab sticks!
This is good wholesome food, fitting to the East End which sits next door. You can have your fried fish and chips or cod and mash. Even the "exotic" fish are served in a way that would not be out of place in an inner city pub with a simplicity that is as unpretentious as Jack Duckworth at Ascot (although I wouldn't recommend trying to serve the regulars of the Rovers with a lobster - you might get it back in your face!).
There is no doubt when you survey the menu that this is not going to be a cheap eat. Caviar (Sevruga and Beluga) appears, as do various types of oyster, lobster and crab (all with a suitable price tag £20-£250). The "main" courses average £15 in price and it is here you will find your fishcakes, fried fish and chips or roast seabass.
I was dining on a bankers account and should have been tempted to push the boat out. We escaped with a bill of £35 a head which gave us a main, dessert, bottle of water, bottle of house wine and a cover charge. It could have been worse.
The food itself is meticulously presented, as one would expect from an establishment such as this. The portions are not mean (which makes a pleasant suprise) and you will not leave feeling hungry. Fish is one of those foods that needs to be cooked well. Over or under-cooked fish is appalling and poorly prepared dishes (particularly those involving crustacea, bivalves or flat fish) can be more than stomach churning. Not a problem here. The fish was cooked to perfection and, judging by the noises coming from the next table, they agreed!
Side dishes were as one would expect, chips, mash, green beans, green salad and so forth (all at £3.50) and were pleantiful in supply, easily doing two.
Desserts were slightly more adventurous and at £6 a go, not unreasonably priced for the City. The wild strawberry parfait with wild berries was indulgent (although I did doubt the wildness of the strawberries that were served!) and the creme brulee was suitably tanned.
My heart sunk as my companion ordered a bottle of house white to accompany the meal (I can be a bit of a wine snob). I needn't have worried. The sauvignon blanc was perfectly balanced with the dishes and a review of the wine list suggested the presence of a sommelier worthy of his position.
The restaurant itself is split into two portions. The first, a formal affair, has the air of opulence about it. Think rotund, rich banker and you will get the idea. We ate in the second section, the champagne bar. This area is very relaxed with tables (generally for two) arranged around a horseshoe bar. The bar has stools and many clients could be seen supping oysters with champagne at the bar.
The decor is fairly minimalist and I think the idea is that you feel vaguely nautical in the aquamarine and chrome environment. Personally, this did not work for me although you really did not feel as though you were in the City.
One of the frequent problems with the City restaurants is that tables tend to be crowded together. Not so here. You could have a perfectly discrete conversation in privacy (well at least as much as you would get in any open restaurant).
Service was slick yet unrushed save for the initial ordering. We found a waiter ready to take our order within about two minutes of us having been seated. He went away! Attention to falling wine levels could have been handled better and, had it been so, another bottle would probably have been sold (although I would not be typing in a straight line had that been the case!). All in all though, it was a very pleasurable experience.
In conclusion, I would heartily recommend this restaurant. It makes an ideal place to wine and dine clients and, in the evening and at weekends the perfect place for a romantic dinner a deux, provided the bank balance stretches that far!
London EC2M 7QN
T: 020 7618 7200
F: 020 7618 7201
Remember, FISH IS GOOD FOR YOU!