Many moons ago – 12 years, to be exact – there wasn’t a lot doing at London Bridge. There was a restaurant called Magdalen, which was magnificent, but to reach it on foot, from what was then a rather grotty London Bridge station, you had to run the gauntlet of what was then a rather scary Tooley Street – long, dark and unfamiliar, to me, then a newbie to the capital.
How things have changed. Since City Hall arrived near Tower Bridge, London Bridge has been on the up – literally, with More London’s glass towers reaching for the skies, crowned by the coolly imposing Shard.
And then, slowly, slowly, came the food, the culture and the penthouses at One Tower Bridge, et voila, Londoners have a shiny new riverside down-time destination near one of the world’s most famous bridges.
One of the latest openings, just around the corner from The Bridge Theatre, is The Coal Shed, so called because it draws on traditional methods of cooking on natural fire and charcoal to grill sustainably sourced meat and fish.
The menu is simple and unfussy, letting the fresh flavours of the meat and fish do the talking, and there’s a great lunch deal for nearby office workers who can manage to drag themselves away from their desks for the whole hour (#FriYAY!).
The menu is seasonal (of course, since fish and crustaceans are delivered fresh six days a week from south coast boats), and the beautifully simple ‘Meat, Fish, Fire’ section for The Coal Shed’s signature sharing plates features dishes such as whole smoked goat shoulder with fire-roasted flatbread, and spiced Cornish monkfish cooked over coal with chorizo and clams.
Then there’s the unembellished ‘steak’ section, for those who take an unbridled, purist approach to their red meat. Here, you’ll find a selection of 35-day, dry-aged Scottish steaks from the North Highlands, cooked to your liking over fire-hot coals. There’s also a daily specials board featuring rare-breed cuts.
Sharing really is caring here – or just a convenient excuse to be a little greedy
Sharing really is caring here – or just a convenient excuse to be a little greedy. My friend and I, feeling rather hungry on a Friday afternoon, ordered the surfboard, a platter of fresh, fire-grilled shellfish, and a 300g Chateaubriand to share.
The waiter raised an eyebrow, but we assured him we were of suitable appetite. After working our way through a melt-in-the-mouth scallop, crab claw, langoustine, mussels, clams and a cheeky little oyster, the Chateaubriand arrived – perfectly pink in the middle with a few charred edges and a sprinkle of rock salt.
Bolstered by accompaniments of chimichurri and béarnaise sauces, as well as The Coal Shed’s famed beef dripping chips (every bit as moreish as they sound), It was fantastic – pure, simple and oh-so juicy. We very nearly finished the lot, but there was certainly no room for starters or a dessert!
My first experience at The Coal Shed was flawless, and it won’t be hard to find an excuse to return – they also offer a pre-theatre menu for those off to The Bridge Theatre, as well as top-notch Sunday roasts of black Aberdeen Angus beef sirloin with giant Yorkshire’s, cauliflower cheese, smoked gravy and beef-fat potatoes.
The interior is smart, simple and contemporary, and the open kitchen means you can watch the chefs at work. There’s also a small terrace, overlooking a water feature and the restaurant’s neighbour, Prosecco House – yet another reason to head for London’s newest, shiniest riverside destination.
Unit 3.1 One Tower Bridge, 4 Crown Square SE1 2SE; coalshed-restaurant.co.uk