Geales Fish Restaurant is tucked away down a quiet and quaint side street just a short walk away from Notting Hill Gate station. It is nestled quite conspicuously between rows of charming whitewashed houses and, judging by the elderly men sat outside quietly mulling over newspapers with carafes of wine, is a favourite haunt for the locals of Notting Hill.
Geales has been a neighbourhood favourite for over seventy years and was acquired by Concept Venues in 2006 – a UK based company that operates other establishments such as Sanctum Soho Hotel and the Embassy Bar and Brasserie, a celebrity favourite in Mayfair. Since then, Concept founders Mark Fuller and Andy Taylor have transformed Geales Restaurant from a fledgling old-fashioned fish and chip diner into a modern seafood restaurant.
Following on from their success in Notting Hill, Fuller and Taylor decided to open a new Geales restaurant with neighbouring Chelsea in 2010. Since its opening, Geales in Chelsea has attracted a glamorous clientele and is, by its own admission, “popular with socialites”. The original Geales in Notting Hill holds no such allure, and thank goodness for that. The food is not yet overpriced, the establishment is welcoming and unpretentious, and there are no irksome queues to contend with.
The restaurant is modern, bright and spacious, though still retains a traditional old-fashioned fish and chip shop appeal. A generous pot of vinegar takes centre stage on each table top for the customers who are less interested in moules mariniere and more interested in beer battered haddock and thick cut chips – whatever your preferences, you will receive a warm welcome from the friendly staff at Geales.
My guest and I were presented with a menu that was recently masterminded by the new head chef in residence – and let me tell you, Harry Ramsden’s it is not. To start, I opted for the white dressed crab and home-made brioche priced at £11.95. The brioche bread was plentiful and practically melted in the mouth. Unfortunately, the white dressed crab was slightly too creamed with mayonnaise for my liking, which almost drowned the sweet taste of the prized white meat.
For the main I decided on the seafood sharing platter – alas, as with every time I order a sharing platter of scrumptious food, I wondered if it was even worth bringing a guest with me in the first place. If you thought Joey was bad at sharing food in Friends – you don’t want to dine with me. One stray hand careering towards my fries is enough to have me call for the British infantry.
As it happens, the sharing platter at Geales provided me and my guest with a mountain of seafood that even I couldn’t begrudge someone splitting with me. Priced at a very reasonable £21.50, the platter comes with half lobster, tiger prawns, mussels, squid, and a large portion of chips. The head chef came to chat before serving up our main to inform us that instead of mussels, he would be serving us freshly caught clams instead. As it is no longer the season for mussels, he refuses to serve food to customers that is not freshly sourced: admirable indeed – and certainly the right decision. The clams were briney and sweet and presented in a smooth salty broth. I would suggest ordering more brioche for dipping into the broth once you’ve devoured the clams – it would be a waste not to.
The head chef explained gleefully that our lobster had been alive and kicking (probably with some urgency) just a short while before we excavated the poor creatures shell. I’m not one for getting squeamish about where my meat comes from, far from it – but I’d rather the dirty details were not discussed moments before I dig into my delicious and recently deceased food. However, I must compliment the chef on the quality of fresh meat he presented us with. Salty fresh and sweet to taste – my lobster certainly did not die in vain.
Cramming in desert was a difficult feat after sharing such a large platter. My guest emphatically gave up and threw down his sweet chili sauce and cream cheese-splattered napkin in defeat. As far as surrendering goes, the French could not have done it better.
I decided to man up for the both of us and ordered crème brulee with a seasonal compote of strawberry for a clean finish. The desert, served with thinly sliced lime shortbread, was the perfect end to a heavy meal. All desserts are priced at a very reasonable £5.95 – diners can also indulge in treacle tart with clotted cream, apple and blackberry crumble, Eton mess with vanilla Chantilly, or dark chocolate mousse with raspberry coulis.
All in all, the standard of food and service at Geales was high. The new menu, which artfully mixes the old with the new as far as seafood dishes go, will likely turn heads and attract a clientele not so local to the Notting Hill area. That being said, I hope that Geales maintains its neighbourhood charm amidst a possible invasion of Sloanes in the coming months. If that local charm is lost, you may find that your local Harry Ramsden’s has been invaded by confused men in linen suits requesting sauvignon blanc with their chip barm and chicken nuggets.