GEALES: SOLE-NO SOUL
To be honest I never thought that two and half years after visiting the execrable Tom's Place - Tom 'Pre-Pack' Aiken's take on Fish and Chips (yeah, right) where the fish proved to be more sustainable than the business model - I'd be back eating one of DH’s favourite platefuls of grub in exactly the same place. Now, though instead of a lame pun, the gaff is named after the venerable Geales, part of the proto-chain owned by the excitingly named Concept Venues.
The first branch of Geales in Notting Hill has been operating under its current owners for over three years which surprised me as when I visited it was a step down in enjoyment from the original incarnation. So they've either upped their game or maybe the Notting Hillbillies are not that fussed about the food they shove down their gobs. I suspect it's the latter especially as in an odd case of restaurant déjà vu I had an almost identical experience here compared to the one several years ago.
The staff obviously weren’t expecting a punter so early – though it was almost 12:30 – and the cogs weren’t so much whirring as grinding noisily. The FOH was doing a little on-the-spot staff training with young, posh lads who were doing the waiting and I had to ask for things several times. A tad irritating in an empty restaurant.
Nobody seemed to know exactly what the charmingly named Seaside Pick & Mix was. I offered marinated shellfishy bits which they seemed to think was a reasonable description. It was, in fact, shellfishy bits which had been lightly warmed through. It was under seasoned and pretty tasteless but for £3 was a harmless enough way to kill some time until my Whitebait pitched up.
Happily the kitchen’s deep-frying skills were well up to snuff and the lightly battered, little fish were excellent. The mayonnaise could have done with a bit of pepping up but I suppose they didn’t want to make things too exciting for the elderly locals who were gradually filling the restaurant up. (I had to have a little chuckle when one couple on a neighbouring table who had been visiting this spot since the fifties went on about how much they hated the last place. So you see – it’s not just me. Hah).
My main course of Haddock and Chips was technically spot on. The fish had a crisp coating which had allowed the fish to steam inside but not overcook – it flaked in a pleasing fashion. But, and it’s a big but, it didn’t taste of anything. Whether it was lack of seasoning or possibly the batter needing some beer in the mix I don’t know, but I do know it was all very, very bland and consequently a very dull eat.
Chips were fine. Mushy peas had been made (correctly) from marrowfat peas but had not been soaked or cooked long enough so there were hard bits still in. Perhaps it was the kitchen taking their lead from lazy TV chefs and keeping things “a bit rustic”.
The other accompaniments? Well, my last post on Geales probably tells you everything you need to know. And like that last visit the best thing I ate was the Ice Cream, which was a pleasant change after the rash of places serving up expensive, gummy Gelati.
Overall though it still is a truism that the gussying-up of the humble F&C supper had somehow robbed the dish of any heart or soul. Either that or the kitchen had never actually eaten or made proper fish and chips before but could execute a recipe very accurately. Certainly, the latter may be the case as I saw a cracking piece of grilled Plaice go out.
That said, much like its sister restaurant in Notting Hill, Geales is located in an area not known for it’s great restaurants and discerning clientele which probably means it’ll will do very well. Me, I’m off to find somewhere where the phrase “neutral oil” could get you a smack round the chops.