If you like fish, and you like a good pun, you may have taken part in #FishPunDay on Friday. it was a light-hearted way to get people in the mood for National Seafood Week. And while I had to mullet over (sorry) to think of a good one, I did find the perfect plaice (argh, sorry) to celebrate my own love of seafood. That place was Chamberlain’s of London.
First up, Chamberlain’s of London is a very elegant restaurant. So it’s very fitting that you’ll find it in the absolutely stunning Leadenhall Market. If you haven’t been to this remarkable covered market in East London before, I think you’ll agree, it’s a very special place.
It was designed in Victorian times, has featured in two Harry Potter films and is arguably, one of the most beautiful buildings in London.
I highly recommend popping by one day and admiring the beautifully preserved architecture and stained glass. Make sure you look up – every inch of this building is incredible.
So it’s this lovely setting that makes the first impression of Chamberlain’s so special. If you choose a table on the ground floor of the restaurant, you’ll be treated to views of the market interiors.
Meanwhile, there’s a lovely mezzanine level and a dining area in the basement that affords a hip brasserie style. Think bare brick walls and historical black and white photography of the much-loved Billingsgate Market.
Which leads me on to the background of the restaurant, because Billingsgate Market has played an important role in the history of Chamberlain’s of London. As we inspected our menus over delicious truffle-infused popcorn and glasses of effervescent champagne, our friendly waiter Artan explained the story.
History of Chamberlain’s of London
Chamberlain’s goes back four family generations to William Steadman who was a porter in the famed Billingsgate Fish Market in the 1940s.
Further family members followed in William Steadman’s steps and the family became known as one of the most acclaimed quality fish suppliers in London. Then known as Chamberlain and Thelwell, they went on to provide seafood for top hotels and restaurants across the city.
In 2000, they decided to open a seafood restaurant and chose Leadenhall Market, partly because this incredible Victorian structure was designed by the same architecture as Billingsgate Market – a place close to their heart.
Amazingly, when they began work on the basement, work was paused because they found Roman remains there (the site was once the site of a Roman basilica.)
Eventually the restaurant opened and this year marks Chamberlain’s 16th year. Their suppliers? Well Billingsgate Market of course. And you’ll find some interesting nods towards the restaurant’s history – such as the fish hooks you’ll spot hanging from the ceiling.
In awe of their commitment to the highest quality seafood, I couldn’t wait to tuck into my lobster bisque. But only after we’d whetted our appetite with warm fresh bread and a light and refreshing anchovy mousse.
The lobster bisque was intense and rich with a creamy quality and subtle lemon tang. Here, Chef Andrew Jones (formerly of Claridges Hotel) flavours the bisque with a luxurious kick of Armagnac. I only wish there’d been one (or maybe two) more brown shrimp bonbons on top– these crispy little morsels are fantastic!
BC ordered what were quite possibly, the biggest, fattest scallops I’ve ever seen! Chamberlain’s of London cooks with hand-dived scallops from Orkney and while two of them made for quite a hefty starter (be warned), they were fantastic. Served with light and delicious celeriac and apple and Darjeeling tea-smoked bacon, they were a big hit with BC. In his opinion, a tiny bit more bacon (or smaller portion of scallop) would have worked perfectly for this flavoursome dish.
Shortly after, we were surprised with a ‘little’ interlude between courses… a smokey piece of haddock topped with a light, herbaceous salad.
Next up for my main course was Dover Sole sourced from Brixham. I didn’t quite realise how big this flat fish is – so again, arrive hungry, especially if you’re ordering sides.
Diners can choose how they’d like it cooked – grilled, pan fried or poached in Champagne sauce. I kind of wish I’d tried the Champagne sauce (as it sounds so luxurious). But there was something really satisfying about enjoying the sole in its simplest form – grilled, with a simple squeeze of lemon (and not a bone in sight)….
Especially as we’d also ordered the truffle and parmesan chips (incredible) and gooest, creamiest mashed potatoes I’ve ever tasted…
While I’m mad about seafood, BC isn’t. So I allowed him to order a non-fish dish for his mains.
He went for the roasted breast of grouse, a plate of rich flavours which went perfectly with a glass of the Pinot Noir. This dish is served with greens, salt-baked celeriac and Madeira jus and the grouse is sourced from Yorkshire. Expect a hearty and flavour-layered dish that is perfect for enjoying in the autumn.
After an essential breather between courses, we somehow managed to squeeze in one of Chamberlain’s desserts. And I’m so glad we did.
The deconstructed cheese cake was sweet but refreshing and cheek-achingly tangy – the perfect finale to a rich meal….
…and the tarte tatin was honestly, one of the best versions of this dessert I’ve ever tried, caramelised to perfection and accompanied with rich ice cream.
While Chamberlain’s may not receive the footfall of other restaurants in the City (businesses here are also closed during the weekend), this family-owned restaurant has a lovely ambiance, caring staff and fantastic seafood.
Many of their dishes do head over the £25 mark (and even higher if you’re ordering lobster) and you’ll pay extra for sides. However, it’s worth noting that their brasserie menu offers some more purse-friendly dishes for lunchtime.
Excuse the cringey puns earlier, but there’s nothing cringe about this place. You can expect quality, sophistication and that warm vibe that you only get from an establishment run by passionate people.
In fact, Chamberlain’s of London is pure class.
How will you be celebrating National Seafood Week?
Chamberlain’s of London, 23-35 Leadenhall Market, London EC3V 1LR
020 7648 8690