The opening of Neptune has created quite a stir in the London restaurant scene recently. Presented by the enigmatic duo of Margaret Crow (stylist-turned-restaurateur) and Brett Redman (Jidori, Elliot’s) who together gave us The Richmond in Dalston, they are now combining forces again to recreate the same magic in this new collaborative venture.
Housed inside the newly opened and gorgeously renovated The Principal Hotel (previously The Russell Hotel) in Bloomsbury, Neptune is a British seafood restaurant.
The interiors have been visualised by Margaret and executed by Russell Sage Studio and are in cheerful hues of peach and yellow (or is it pink and salmon?); in short, full of sunshine vibes. It is in subtle contrast to the swathes of marble in the hotel’s lobby and other communal areas.
During the day, the restaurant is awash with dust-spangled sunlight, thanks to the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Russell Square. In the evening, it transforms into a more glamorous space, set against the backdrop of party tunes and chatty diners. In the middle of the room is a fresh oyster and seafood bar with counter seating; the look feels like decadent elegance. Perhaps the only complaint is the acoustics, which make the space slightly cacophonous and challenging to have intimate conversations.
Not that you would want to have too many intimate conversations, because the food here is the talking point. We were visiting during the early days of its opening but already the restaurant was packed to the rafters. A bevy of smiling waitresses welcomed us; one of them swiftly checked our coats in and the other deftly ushered us to our table. It was so smooth and perfectly done that it almost felt like choreography.
We look around and almost all tables were tucking into the Seafood Platter (for 2) so we decided to dive in too. We snaffled through the raw and shimmering selection that included Wild Mussels and Soffrito, Scottish Langoustines, Wild Rock Oyster Aguachile, Trout tartare with Dill and Crème Fraîche and Marinated Mackerel with Horseradish and Carrot. The seafood was absolutely delicious and fresh – as if that they had swum to the restaurant themselves. The mussels were a slippery triumph (groaning with that savoury soffrito) and the tartare was another highlight. Only complaint – we wanted more of each type!
Main courses included a magnificent Monkfish, White Asparagus, Brown Butter and Capers. The meaty fish was expertly cooked and there were some bold, zesty flavours in that sauce.
But it was the Turbot, Olive Oil Hollandaise, Wild Garlic and Courgettes that was the true love affair on the table. Every ingredient balanced the other so well – the silky fish, the creamy and garlicky sauce and the discs of courgettes that had an ever-so-soft bite. Everything was pitch-perfect.
We also ordered a side of Chips which were again pretty flawless – thick cut potato, crunchy on the outside and soft, fluffy and piping hot in the middle.
It was a weeknight so we thought of skipping dessert and keeping it light. However, the Baked Cheesecake with Fresh Strawberries was teasing us so we caved. I kid you not – it was truly one of the best baked cheesecakes I have eaten in a while. It did not have a biscuit base (so forgive me if you purists think that it’s not really a cheesecake), but the bulk of the cake was soft, smooth and deliciously creamy, offset wonderfully by the tartness of the fruit.
The prices were definitely on the higher side, there are no (fish) bones about that (see what I did there!). However, before you complain, let me paint the picture again – Hotel Restaurant and Seafood. You cannot get exemplary seafood on the cheap and once you factor in the plush postcode, swish surroundings and historic Grade-II listed location, suddenly those £££ make perfect sense.
Location: Cnr of Guilford Street and Russell Square, Bloomsbury, London
More information can be found here.