There is something truly magical about London’s Southbank, even in the depths of winter. As you are expelled from Blackfriars station, wind whipping scarves and blow dried curls around your face as you take in the expanse of the inky black Thames. The slightly ominous stretch is softened as you peer over the wall to see the gentle lapping waves tickle a sheltered bank where two geese have decided to make home for the night and you wonder if they take stock of the cityscape in front of them the same way you do. The dome of St Paul’s casting majesty over his more modern counterparts, the wobbly walkie talkie looking slightly embarrassed by his drunken addition to the other bolt upright city slickers. You take it in, you digest it and then you realise how frikkin’ cold you are in this battering wind when finally your eyes settle on the bright neon lights and you know Sea Containers is your salvation.
Welcomed in to the sleek, modern restaurant with nods to both British and American culinary institutions – think display cubes filled jars of Marmite and bottles of French’s mustard – an open kitchen offers a background chatter of hustle and bustle and a centrally located 360 bar presents the perfect opportunity for people watching. Floor to ceiling windows allow diners to continue basking in that Southbank view whilst staying safe from the elements.Nautical curiosities are elegantly positioned around the venue allowing guests to feel like they are on a 1920’s cruise liner minus the sea sickness and scurvy (one would hope) – this restaurant truly is dinner and a show.
Before diving into our meal we started with cocktails – a SeaCo Gimlet and a Seven Seas Old Fashioned – as beautiful as they were delicious, the mixologist clearly knows their way around a cocktail shaker. The perfect lubrication for the new ‘Transatlantic Journey’ menu. Designed by Exec chef Ryan Matheson and Head Chef Terence Barrow, this menu promises a combination of Modern American and British cuisine with hints of West Indian Spices as a nod to both chef’s roots.
SeaCo Gimlet & a Seven Seas Old Fashioned.
The menu consists of small and large plates, designed to be shared with a focus on seasonal ingredients. Before I go any further, I must admit that I chose totally the wrong dining partner for this event. I broke my cardinal rule and took a vegetarian, well pesci if we are going to get into it. Little did I know we would be having the same meal because ya know, sharing plates. Now don’t get me wrong, I love the fruits of the sea as much as the next person, I am even partial to a pulse-y plant based dish from time to time. However, when you are nibbling on grilled sea bass and green beans and a whole deep fried chicken with homemade hot sauce rolls past to the next table, fish is just not going to cut it. Don’t get me wrong, our food was delicious – this is just a warning to those carnivores with herbivore friends. Take someone else.
I digress. Let’s talk about the food I did eat. Tomato flat bread loaded with onion, blue cheese, cheddar, basil and rocket was the perfect way to begin our Transatlantic journey, for something that read as quite simple, the flavour packed into each bite was fantastic and enough to make my veggie friend squeal in delight. I was too busy begrudgingly staring at the curried goat edition to squeal.
On to some small sharing plates, squid on soft potatoes with chilli and garlic. I honestly feel there is an art in the perfect pomme puree. Sure, you can get a good one just about anywhere but to get one so smooth and perfectly seasoned that it makes you want to cry with joy is rare. Praise be, Sea Containers delivered. The grilled sweetheart cabbage was magical. Drowned in red miso aioli and crispy shallots. Drowned usually has a negative connotation, especially when in a restaurant designed to look like a cruise liner but I mean this with the utmost respect – I would have bathed in that dressing if I had the chance. Massive punches of umami paired with the bitter char of the cabbage leaves. This dish was enough to make me consider turning my back on protein. Until I saw another of those deep fried birds go past. And so on to our big boy sharer – a whole grilled seabass stuffed with lemon and parsley. It was nice. It was lovely in fact, perfectly cooked, delicately flavoured to allow for the subtle sweetness of the fish to shine.
For dessert roast pineapple and pistachio ice cream. How they made that pistachio ice cream is beyond me. It was more pistachio-y than a sack full of pistachio nuts but not in the synthetic flavouring way. I think someone may have spent a week hand grinding pistachios to a paste added in some unicorn hair and dragons blood and set it in an ice cream machine because holy macaroni, that shit was magical. I have a friend who searches high and low for the perfect pistash and always wails that nothing ever compares to one she had in some boujee place in Italy, it’s very annoying but now I rejoice, because for birthdays furthermore I shall take her here, plonk her down in front of a bowl of the green stuff whilst I dig into my fried chicken for two, for one.