After the success of Chiswick's Le Vacherin and Le Cassoulet in Croydon, Malcolm John has recently launched his third neighbourhood restaurant, Fish and Grill. Emma White reports
If you like the nostalgic appeal of a day at the seaside, minus the tacky amusement arcades and worn-out deckchairs of a dated British resort, then you'll love Malcolm John's latest venture, the Fish and Grill.
The restaurant is John's third after Le Vacherin in Chiswick, west London, and Le Cassoulet, which is located a stone's throw from the Fish and Grill on the same road in South Croydon.
"I wasn't looking for another site in Croydon, but when the old Smollensky site came up I decided to take it," explains John. "Croydon is interesting, as there are discerning customers, London commuters and those who don't eat out regularly, so I need to attract all types of people."
A brightly lit fish and seafood counter takes centre stage in the eating area, changed twice daily and used by chefs during service. John says it has the dual benefit of creating a talking point among customers and demonstrating the restaurant's commitment to fresh produce, sourced from the South Coast and Cornwall. "The fish counter is a statement of intent," he explains.
John's unstuffy approach to good food is demonstrated in a menu that offers timeless classics such as fish pie (£12.50), beef-battered haddock (£13.95) and T-bone steak (£18.95), and choice, with the cassoulet of octopus and ham hock (£12).
A generous portion of retro whitebait arrives first, served in a simple paper bag with aÁ¯oli (£5.50). Organic breads are also served in a paper bag, and a starter of anchovies, artichokes and olives (£4.95) comes in a colander.
"Presentation is very important for giving a restaurant its identity," explains John. "I like the ingredients to speak for themselves, so I do as little to them as possible. I serve the whitebait and bread in a paper bag because I don't want anything else to detract from the quality of the food."
Popular dishes on the Fish Mains menu include the whole Cornish line-caught sea bass (£18), stuffed with garlic, fennel, rosemary and thyme and roasted with provenÁ§al herbs and olive oil. The Dover sole (£22) is drizzled with olive oil and unsalted butter, grilled for five minutes and served with lemon, homeâ'made tartare sauce and chips. The fish is delicious and tastes like the sea rather than being masked by the smothering of an overly rich sauce.
The Grill menu ranges from the calf's liver and bacon with mash and onion rings (£12.50) to the Old Spot pork chop with BBQ seasoning (£13.95), while a selection of side dishes includes buttered cabbage (£2.95), gratin of leeks (£2.95) and macaroni cheese (£3.50).
Chocoholics will relish the Valrhona chocolate pot, a favourite on the desserts menu. Chunks of chocolate are folded into chocolate mousse flavoured with orange Grand Marnier for a textured treat. Bread and butter pudding with vanilla ice-cream and a Bakewell tart with raspberry ripple ice-cream ensure all sweet-toothed customer tastes are satisfied.
Guests can wash down their food with wine from an impressive 60-bin list along with spirits, liqueurs and dessert wines.
John is keen to keep the menu interesting and discusses plans to introduce new species of fish. "I've been speaking to independent suppliers about introducing line-caught turbot, John Dory, monkfish, red mullet, Cornish sardines and fresh anchovies, which are just coming into season," he says, adding: "My only problem is finding room for them on the menu."
Fish & Grill,48-50 South End, Croydon CRO 1DP.
Tel: 020 8774 4060
What's on the menu
- Dorset crab salad and baby spinach, £7.25
- Potted smoked Cornish mackerel, £6
- Scallops and spinach gratin, £6.95
- Cornish hake, saffron mussel and potato broth, £14
- Halibut, crayfish butter and parsley mash, £16.95
- South Coast sea bream, roasted in Malden salt, £14.95
- Leg of Southdown lamb, £12.95
- Free-range Label Rouge poussin marinated in sea salt and rosemary, £13
- House burger made with hand-diced Angus beef, £10.95
- Bramley apple crumble, £5.95
- Crème brÁ»lée, £6.25
- Passion fruit Pavlova with chocolate sauce, £6.25