The Coal Shed in a nutshell
Having established The Salt Room and The Coal Shed as firm favourites on the Brighton food scene, restaurateur Razak Helalat has made it to London with this seasonal, sustainable meat and seafood restaurant that specialises in cooking over fire, located behind City Hall.
The Coal Shed restaurant review
Despite a modern glass-fronted exterior, inside The Coal Shed is somewhat reminiscent of an old-school Japanese izakaya, with its wooden screens, low lighting and dark-wood beams and fittings. A table by the floor-to-ceiling window affords a welcome sense of space despite the low-hanging mezzanine above, looking out across a courtyard of uplit fountains.
We settled down to our menus with two enjoyable cocktails: a refreshing, zesty Oil Slick of white rum, confit lime and lemon balm cordial; and a fruity Winterberry Royale, with gin, citrus and winterberry shrub.
Having asked our friendly and knowledgable waitress for her personal recommendations, we opted for a meat/seafood combo to start, choosing the BBQ octopus and veal tartare.
Both were superb: the octopus beautifully smoky and tender; the veal was an enticingly arranged bowl of finely chopped goodies, including candy-pink diced raw veal, capers, a shiny egg yolk and a dusting of ‘coal’ – once stirred together, the resulting dish was at once fresh, vinegary and smoky, with not a hint of gamey aftertaste.
Given The Coal Shed menu’s focus, for the mains we went with a combination of ribeye steak, ordered rare, with sides of beef-dripping chips, coal-roasted carrots and ash-baked beetroots; and a platter of fire-roasted shellfish.
The steak had a deep, aged flavour but was a tad overdone and a little tough to chew – the accompanying flame-grilled shallot though was deliciously sweet, and the green peppercorn sauce added the desired pep without too much heat (another option, a buttery mushroom and bone marrow sauce, was dull by comparison).
The bang-on chips were just-crunchy, subtly salted and soft inside, as they should be; the more savoury-than-sweet heritage carrots had a pleasing bite to them; but the beetroots offered little to shout about.
The shellfish selection was a mixed bag – the showy langoustine boasting barely a morsel of meat, the crab claws generous in size but ordinary in taste, the scallop under-seasoned; the real treats here lay among the little soft, sweet-tasting clams, plump, earthy mussels, garlicky cooked oyster and crunchy strands of salty samphire.
For dessert, a show-stopping baked alaska was delivered to the table and duly set alight – when the flames died down, we tucked into the meltingly soft meringue, a dense, chewy sea buckthorn parfait resembling kulfi, and boozy hints of Curaçao complementing sweet-sharp passion fruit coulis.
A panna cotta with balled apples, blackberries, granola, nasturtium leaves and calvados offered a gratifying combination of textures even if the flavours were a little underwhelming.
Menu must-order at The Coal Shed
The BBQ octopus starter, with smoky aubergine, sea-salty kombu, mushrooms, sweetly pickled daikon and a spicy seafood XO sauce.
Dodge the cloying, coal-flavoured charcoal mayo that accompanies the shellfish platter.
Price range: Mid-range/high-end.
Written by Dominic Martin
Photographs Paul Winch-Furness