Seafood food seers with a social/environmental conscience and a discerning palette Shoreditch people/those in The Boxpark looking for something a little healthier, and a little more natural than the nearby geographical competition People who like Thai food. They don’t seem to advertise this, but they’re doing the South East Asian thing quite extensively, and quite well
In A Word
Seafood with heavy Thai / South East Asian influences
Simply Fish…does what it says on the tin (mostly)
Simply Fish describes the concept (but not necessarily the execution) quite well. They do fish, quite simply. They don’t mess around with French names, overly decorated premises or going for anything more than a laminate menu and a 2 colour logo. And, lots of this menu seems like the kind of thing that I could, theoretically, cook at home, but about 326% better than I could do it. We show up around 7pm, to discover that a bunch of stuff that was on the menu was actually not on the menu. These guys run out of things, which is a good sign when it comes to fish (though this theme of ‘running out’ repeats later, with terrible implications). There is also the wonderful, all pervasive smell of frying fish – if you hate fish, this place might not be for you. SF’s Fish comes in each morning from Looe, Cornwall – and going with the ‘delivery’ theme, Simply Fish also have at least one electric bike in which they’ll bring you fish, in a bag. Behold – eco fish takeaway!
Simply Fish offer a small, but reasonable, wine menu – obviously weighted in favour of white wines. They also have a limited number of cocktails, and probably beers and other stuff but I forget.
The unit it occupies within Boxpark does have a kind of…prefab, Ikea vibe to it. SF itself is borderline minimalist, only kept on the borderline by a little ornamentation added in the form of flowers, bottles, and the kind of stuff you put in a place to make it look more like a restaurant and less like the inside of a shoebox. Also plywood…lots of plywood, which I suppose, as Dom points out, fits with the sustainable theme. And yes, it may look a little like a shoebox, but thanks to this prime Boxpark location – Simply Fish has a communal, vibrant feeling. Restaurant diners rub shoulders with people drinking at adjacent establishments and you can hear the music from next door competing with what’s spinning on SF’s stereo system. Also you’re in Shoreditch so everybody’s cool and beards and shit.
I suppose it’s a bit like living in a lively tower block, though without the occasional slightly homicidal, ‘un-neighbourly’ feelings this might provoke. You also hear the sound of trains rolling over the bridge to Shoreditch High Street station. This might be a sound that some people find grating, but I find it therapeutic. The place starts to fill up a little more after 8pm…
Now then, there’s a caveat on the ‘sustainable’ thing here. Just because it’s sustainable does not mean that it’s line caught (something I didn’t notice until I read into it). So, as far as I know, everything on the menu is farmed (sustainably) – which is probably why Simply Fish is a lot more affordable than many of it’s competitors. That aside, this is exactly the kind of food I like. Fish, prepared in a simple style that doesn’t detract from it’s natural flavours – and that does not try to mystify the dining process. As we mentioned, there’s a Thai thing going on here – lemongrass served almost with everything, and little red chilli slices that can and will punish you with fire and asphyxiation if you underestimate them.
(More fish, obviously.) There’s a few options here. You can create your own meal from a list of fish, sauces, styles of cooking and sides, or you can opt for ‘house recommendations’ – which make these decisions for you. If you create your own meal, you get your choice of two sides. Said sides are pretty small, but the fish is hearty, so unless you have the appetite of a baby whale, or a black mamba you should be OK!
Pan fried trout with sweet potato wedges and jasmine rice
Battered hake with mixed salad
Ginger and bok choi
There’s a small selection…
Apple & mixed berry crumble, cinnamon ice cream
I guess that the whole thing feels like something between dining at a slick chain like Wagamama, and a more specialist(?) fish restaurant like Geales. The good: Reasonable prices (about £30 per head for a few courses with a glass of wine), selection, healthy dishes and an unpretentious approach to dining. The bad: Minimal offerings for the fish hater (though why a fish hater would go to a place called ‘Simply Fish’ in the first place is beyond me), underdeveloped drinks menu, and some organisational problems. So yes, despite a solid concept, well delivered upon, there is a catch. These guys lose out badly for ferocious disorganisation. Also there is no freshmint tea. Why not? Freshmint tea is life. I won’t give too deep an account of said disorganisation/mistimed trainwreck that was our dessert, but yeah…it’s the kind of thing that leads to people getting aggro on TripAdvisor – and that’s no fun for anyone. It’s not like I’d not return. But if this happens everytime, well…I suppose I’d just say skip dessert!
A: Boxpark, Units 42-43, 2-4 Bethnal Green Rd, London E1 6JU W: http://simplyfish.com/ T: @wearesimplyfish