What exactly is it? This smart new lockdown service – cunningly entitled ‘Seashore To Front Door’- comes from the brother-and-sister duo behind acclaimed floating canal boat London Shell Co. Launched back in 2016, their simple USP was for punters to enjoy a piscine set menu on the Prince Regent narrowboat as it pottered from Paddington to Camden and back (see our original review here). It was such a success they went on to launch a static dining boat, The Grand Duchess, too.
Sounds delish. But isn’t the food a bit tricky to deliver? Well, the team has cleverly pared things right down to two simple options with their delivery boxes (with fish direct from Cornwall). Choose between the Picnic Box or BBQ Box, each containing all the components for a meal for two with fresh and/or cured/smoked fish and seafood, as well as a bottle of Grand Duchess English Sparkling Wine.
Tell me more. The fish changes weekly depending on what’s available: as you’d imagine, the picnic option features ready-to-eat fish and accompaniments, including soda bread and pickles, while the BBQ box is a bit more foodie – and naturally requires a flame or two to prepare the food.
What do you recommend? We went for the latter, a generous feast of tandoori monkfish chops, three slender whole line-caught mackerel, a handful of plump tiger prawns with coriander lime butter, tubs of smokey bean and tomato salad, coleslaw, as well as jersey royals with seaweed butter.
Wowsers. Is that really one meal? In theory, yes. But being economically minded, it wasn’t hard to divvy into two. So, on Friday afternoon we fired up the BBQ and enjoyed the fat pink crustaceans, followed by rather lipsmacking monkfish, its flesh chargrilled yet opaque, beautifully spiced, just falling-off-the-bone. The whole lot sang with the crunch of the tangy slaw and rather filling bean salad, and proved more than enough for one sitting, especially with a couple of slices of bread and butter from our local bakery.
What was left? We saved the trio of whole mackerel and potatoes for a light lunch the next day: one of our favourite fish to barbecue, it’s worth its own headline show, the oily texture and rich meatiness meaning it’s also hard to screw up. Oh, and speaking of which, the instructions that come in the box are super clear so fish novices needn’t panic.
And finally? A word about the potatoes, pre-cooked in a handy foil package to warm through on the barbecue: mouthwateringly tasty, the seaweed butter added extra umami depth (to be honest, we’d have eaten double the amount). As a sidenote, I also pinboned and filleted one of the mackerel to make an improvised starter to share: recommended with, say, a dash of home-made chimichurri.
To drink? The Grand Duchess – the LSC’s static boat moored at Paddington Basin – has its own-label Hampshire-produced fizz. Its fruity sparkle – a mix of Bacchus and Pinot Gris grapes – proved refreshing and extremely easy to guzzle.
The verdict? Prices start at £45 for the Picnic Box and £60 for the BBQ, but since it includes a quality bottle of vino, and there’s more than enough for two people, this makes a more than decent-value weekend treat in this seemingly endless #lockdown age of restaurant-free living.
Main photo: Nic Crilly-Hargrave. Gasholder ate as guests of London Shell Co. For more on our food reviews policy see here