“The Sea The Sea” opened in April 2019, set up by Alex Hunter, who runs two London seafood restaurants called Bonnie Gull. In charge of the kitchen here is Leandro Carreira, who was formerly head chef and owner of the now shuttered Londrino. “The Sea, The Sea” hints at the nature of the restaurant but is named after a Booker Prize-winning novel by Iris Murdoch whose theatrical main character retires to live in a house in a seaside village. The restaurant is a fishmonger by day and a restaurant by night, in a semi-pedestrianised street near Sloane Square. Seating is on bar stools rather than chairs, so does not encourage lingering. There are a couple of tables outside with regular chairs, though obviously this only applies in good weather.
The wine list had around just over two dozen labels, almost all white, and with a preponderance of natural wines. The list started at £31 and went up to £205 with a median price of £66 and an average markup of almost exactly three times their retail price, which by London standards is not too bad. Sample references were Doniene Hondarragi Zuri Bakio 2018 at £43 for a bottle that you can find in the high street for £14, Domaine Alexander Chablis Fouchaume 2018 at £66 compared to its retail price of £26, and Newedam Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2017 at £84 for a wine that will set you back £17 in the high street. For those with the means there was Marc Colin St Aubin 2015 at £120 compared to its retail price of £40, and Vouette and Sorbee Fidele Brut Nature NV at £150 for a wine whose current market value is £88. Alternatively, corkage was £25.
Slices of sourdough came from The Bread Factory, while butter was churned in house. The menu was “small plates” format, with three dishes per person recommended. Raw squid from Scotland was topped with kaluga caviar from top-notch producer N25. Kaluga, the “river sturgeon”, produces some of the best caviar, almost as expensive as its cousin beluga. The combination of the briny caviar and the squid was effective (14/20).
Sardines were topped with slivers of red pepper along with coriander on slices of toasted brioche. I think sardines are a greatly underrated fish, and the combination of flavours here worked nicely (14/20). Mackerel rolls were filled with daikon and a Portuguese style pesto involving garlic, coriander and pine nuts. This was excellent, the natural oiliness of the mackerel nicely paired with the pine nuts, the combination of flavours working really well (15/20). A large red prawn from Mozambique was steamed for two minutes, shelled and sliced then had a garnish added of samphire and lardo colonnata. Finally the prawn was briefly torched. The shellfish was cooked all right but had that whiff of chlorine that affects some farmed prawns (12/20). A mix of white and brown crab meat was served with seaweed waffles on the side. This was a simple but enjoyable dish, the crab shell free and having good flavour (13/20).
Red mullet was served with braised lettuce and onion flavoured with shio koji, an umami seasoning. The mullet was carefully cooked and the braised vegetables were a good foil for the fish (14/20). Kingfish from Australia was cured and then cooked, topped with crunchy pickled crosnes, a type of root vegetable also known as Chinese artichoke, and coated with langoustine broth. The fish was aged 12 days and had good flavour, the pickling vinegar of the artichokes working very well to cut through the flavour of the fish, while the artichokes themselves provided a welcome textural contrast. I am not normally a fan of aged fish, but this dish worked quite well (14/20).
Cheese was from the shop next door, called London Cheesemongers: a single cheese is selected each day and served. Dessert was toasted brioche that was soaked in egg mix, roasted and served with sour caramel, hazelnuts and whipped cream. This was very pleasant, though the bread was a touch over-toasted in places (13/20).
No coffee was available, which given the considerable margins on this beverage seems like a wasted opportunity for the restaurant. Service was good, the staff being friendly and patient. The bill came to £100 per person with corkage plus a single glass of wine. If you ordered a modest bottle from the list then a typical cost per person might come to around £85. This is not cheap, though to be fair seafood rarely is. Overall “The Sea, The Sea” featured good produce served in quite imaginative ways. Perhaps I am showing my age, but for this price it would be nice to sit in a chair rather than perching on a stool.