I’ve not shared this with many people just yet, but in March I started taking violin lessons. I’m keeping it under wraps because I’m not sure how naturally I’m going to take to it, and a part of me fears failure, I guess. But, I am lucky in that of the UK’s best violinists has taken me on as a student, so once every two weeks I make the journey over to the other side of the city to West Hampstead for my lessons. I use the opportunity to expand my gastronomic horizons, and this is how I stumbled upon the Wet Fish Cafe.
It’s apparently known for its seafood (formerly a fishmonger) and has live music in the evenings, but I’ve stumbled in at lunchtime and – not having eaten yet by early afternoon – I’m keen for brunch. From my seat I allow myself a moment to take in my surroundings before getting to the food: the colourful 1930’s cafe style decor and jazz style music create an inviting ambience for me as well as my fellow diners, which include predominantly the middle-class friends and young families that are local to the area.
I start by ordering a flat white, my coffee of choice. You can see from my amateur photo that it is gorgeous, and it tastes as delicious as it looks. So much so, in fact, that I allowed myself the treat of having two of these over the course of the meal: once to start and once to finish.
Before ordering my food, my very kind waiter helped me choose among their options – which include some weekend-only specials. It turns out that their bubble and squeak with poached eggs, chipolata and bacon is a signature dish of theirs, so the choice was really a no-brainer. When it arrived at my table, I admit I was a little disappointed to see the hollandaise sauce, only because it wasn’t on the menu and if I had known, I would have asked for it on the side, but otherwise? This was a fantastic dish.
The poached eggs were perfectly poached and runny in the middle, just how you’d hope they’d be. I placed them on top of the bubble and squeak so that the yolk would run over all of the soft potatoes and tender peas. It was indulgent. The eggs did have a lingering vinegar taste (vinegar from the poaching process), but I was happy to forgive this: I enjoyed the dish like I was eating a home-cooked meal rather than applying the expectations of a fine dining experience. The bacon was deliciously crispy, but not to the point that it would crumble when you cut it: a perfect texture for me. The chipolata was surprisingly smoky and flavourful for such a small sausage. The salad, too, was quite nice: I’m not sure what exactly the dressing was or if it was indeed a house recipe (also not on described on the menu), but it was nice to have some healthy greens with an otherwise guilty-looking dish.
The meal was delicious and, for whom it may apply to, it makes a fantastic hangover dish. While the neighborhood has lots of restaurants in the area, the Wet Fish Cafe is unique in its own way and more than holds its ground as a local favourite. I’ve already scheduled my next violin lesson to be an evening one, and I look forward to returning for some top-notch seafood and live entertainment.
*Calorie estimate comes to 795, which includes the main dish as well as two flat white coffees.
Food taste: 3.9 / 5 (A slight deduction for the vinegar taste, but otherwise great food)
Food/table presentation: 3.9 / 5 (Between my dish and that of my table neighbour I’d say that plating isn’t their strong suit, but it looked appetising all the same)
Service: 4 / 5 (Really friendly, helpful and accommodating)
Atmosphere/decor: 4 / 5 (Quirky, with character)
Value for money: 4 / 5 (Twenty pounds for 2 flat white coffees and entree’ is pretty standard for a London brunch)
Overall rating: 3.9 / 5