- People who want to explore the logical final evolutionary point of British fish and chips
- People who enjoy British cuisine in general
- People interested in that ‘Gastropub’ (the only word I could come up with) approach to developing traditional British dishes to novel new levels.
- Old school West Londoners
- People from the seaside living in London (apparently it’s popular amongst Cornish expats displaced into London, but who said you even had to be British?)
- ‘Surf and turfers’ (emphasis on surf)
In A Word
Meals… at Geales
Writing up Geales is perhaps a formality. It seems that most British foodies have heard of the place and made up their mind on whether they rate it or not. What do you reckon? I guess I came late to the party, finally getting my chance to try it a few months back .
My verdict? Not bad – but not great. Not as great as I would have hoped anyway.
Geales’ reputation is well established, having been serving various series of the Gourmet take on fish and chips since 1939 (though it came under new management in 2006). Of course, Geales aren’t just fish, their menu offers some meat, and an ample selection of desserts which unsurprisingly, do not contain fish.
(I however would eat fish for dessert given the opportunity)
This Geales (there’s another, larger one in Notting Hill) – is quite cosy and compact, on what feels like what could have been the site of a very small furniture store or something similarly artisan. At the time we visited you could tell it was being renovated a bit. This is OK, it made the toilet more exciting.
What we saw of Geales’ clientele was very encouraging – the evening having it’s share of faithfully returning regulars, all on first name terms with Oliver, the somewhat energetic, one man show (mostly) running the operation. And they were proper regulars – we’re talking 91 year old women bringing their daughters for tea and bantering hard about excessive portion sizes with the wait staff. It’s a fine thing to see and a sign that Geales has built up some strong loyalty amongst it’s customers…
So yes, Geales is traditional, but it’s not stuffy. Evidence for this came from the musical selection – which seemed to consist mainly of 90s-00s RnB pop music; maybe not what you’d expect. This, however, did not seem to have any effect on the happy old dears nibbling on their tiny portions of fish and baked things, or the overweight banker types growing increasingly merry as the wine (and night) flowed on…
(and yes, I could tell at least one of them was a banker as he seemed to confuse the idea of ‘telephone’ with ‘megaphone’ and really liked to talk about business).
It is my humble opinion that the traditional British take on seafood is not the best take on seafood, and so I can never be super enthusiastic about a place that does it mainly in the older British style. Everything is breaded and battered too much – interrupting the natural piscine flavours and hitting you with a bunch of needless gluteny-simple-carb-silliness, all fried in vegetable oils.
What you can’t fault about Geales is the freshness of their produce however. The Fish Of The Day is an everchanging selection of either plaice, sole, pollock, sea bass or salmon, and it is literally brough in on the day. You can get it either pan fried or grilled.
Heck, they’ve even got their own, exclusive fish dealer who apparently slogs all their fishies up from somewhere far away on a daily basis (I have a feeling that it was somewhere on the East Coast but don’t quote me on it). So, props to that.
For our main, we opted for the Seafood Platter – a pretty economical choice, and great for sharing, coming in at £22.50 (2 person minimum). It gets you a whole lobster, some tiger prawns, battered squid, mussels mariniere, chips and spinach.
The highlight of the night was some of the best lobster I have ever had so far in my lobster eating career. Fuck yeah. The mussels were OK. The sauce they were served in was quite amazing – some kind of cream reduction in which you could go fishing for loose bivalve bits that had escaped their shells. Inevitably you do, attracting strange looks from other, more refined diners who have no idea why you like the sauce so much
We accompanied this with a Char Grilled Squid, Rocket, Goat’s Cheese and Beetroot Salad. This was OK also – it was maybe a little light on the goat’s cheese – but the char grilled squid reminded me of a Greek grill, which is a happy, sun drenched memory.
We opted for dessert in the form of a Chelsea Tidy. Despite it’s ‘photogenicness’ It wasn’t particularly good, being kind of dry and flat, to be honest. They do offer daily dessert specials, which in hindsight I would have opted for.
The selection here is reasonable – not too overwhelming. A limited selection of red wines, along with a nice range of whites and the standard faire of spirits and liquors (which sounds like a really, really bad idea after a heavy fish meal).
Also, Geales seem to really love Iron Maiden’s Trooper Beer. Which possibly means that I can make a joke about ‘heavy metal fish and chips’ that doesn’t involve mercury poisoning (too late…)
All in all, not as good as I had hoped, but I am probably not representative of the regular British diner. I think the Mediterraneans do fish better (there, I said it…) – but as far as British style fish faire goes, I suppose it’s pretty dandy.
If I were to return I’d definitely have me a Fish Of The Day (maybe asking in advance if it were salmon or sea bass available) – and I’d try the Notting Hill location too.
And maybe I’d revise my opinion a little…
T: 020 7965 0555
A: 1 Cale Street, London, SW3 3QT