“A fish out of water.”
Geales restaurant is a renowned Notting Hill establishment, serving fresh fish and seafood for over 70 years. I’d been here a few years ago to sample their famous ‘fish and chips’, and from what I had remembered it was pretty damn good. When some of my family fancied a no frills dinner in West London, Geales seemed like a simple no-brainer. However, as a result of our dinner, and through no fault of my own might I add, I have been temporarily banned from making any future recommendations concerning dining. I shall now forever hold my head in shame as the food writer who subjected members of his own family to such a culinary travesty.
I actually like the appearance of this little restaurant, it’s very simple, clean and relaxed, so relaxed in fact that half the diners had forgotten to turn up. It had about as much atmosphere as a morgue, a fish cemetery where fish go to meet their end, face down in one of the kitchen’s bins. I have never been so disappointed in the lack of care and love given to cooking. The fact that whoever cooked our food calls him or herself a chef is laughable, but the bottom line is that what I saw and tasted was far from funny.
It pleased me greatly to see brill on the menu, it is by far my favourite fish, delicate and delicious, a king amongst its peers. What emerged from the kitchen was utterly upsetting. This beautiful fish had been completely ruined. The layer of salt, invisible to the eye, stripped the palate like sand paper. It was overcooked, dry and so unbelievably over seasoned that I couldn’t eat it. My cousin’s plate was the same and we both had to send the fish back, I rarely return things to the kitchen but it was truly inedible. What a waste of such an expensive and wonderful product.
They immediately offered to change the fish which was fine, however they were the last two portions of brill. My other cousin had had the last portion of bream, there was no dover sole and no squid either. I’m starting to wonder what the later diners would have to eat, but given the amount of covers at the time I doubted that would be an issue. The lemon sole my aunt was having was covered in an unsurprisingly salty sauce, so we opted for the flounder, we actually had little choice at this point. What later appeared, after all our side side dishes were stone cold, was an insipid dish, lacking in all flavour and devoid of any seasoning at all. I’m wondering at this point whether the “chef” has any tongue at all or he’s just taking the piss.
I didn’t want to complain anymore, the staff were quite lovely, so I just got on with it. Our waitress was fantastic, as was the restaurant manager. It was a fine example of great service, not in a five star, apologetic, sir/madame, stiff kind of manner. It was a friendly and genuine kind of service, the type that I love. We all had a little laugh about the situation, they offered us fresh sides and took the two portions of the fish from the bill. I had previously been hacked off at the negligence of the kitchen in its butchery and wastage of fine produce but the front of house really saved the experience from being a complete catastrophe.
There were a few things of note, the cold prawns and aioli were sweet, tender and delicious. The Asian dipping sauce for the tempura soft shell crab was really tasty, although the batter was incredibly prominent and oily and it killed the crab within. The onion rings were really good, light and crisp but the chips were distinctively average. Much more focus should have given to this key accompaniment, I’ve honestly had better oven chips. The menu was really pretty with a faux fish skin cover, and the sticky toffee pudding was not bad either. I’m really clutching at straws for the sake of the efforts of the staff to be honest.
I asked about the so-called chef, apparently it was not their executive head, although the responsibility falls upon him/her to leave their kitchen in capable hands. It is their name that is being represented every night of the week after all. I can only assume that this careless attempt at cooking was down to the lack of direction in the absence of the head chef. However I neither find it acceptable to pay money for such an experience, and neither will I return to see if my assumptions are correct. Despite this, I hope that whatever problems this restaurant is having are attended to and improved upon in the future. An establishment that has been running since 1939, famed for classic British fish and chips and serving fresh seafood, should be proud, withstanding and reliable. There are not enough places like this in London, it’s part of our heritage and I can honestly say that I hope that they stay afloat in the future. Just don’t expect me to be on board for the ride.
Geales Notting Hill
2 Farmer Street
London SW3 3 QT
+44 20 7727 7528