Not just a restaurant, Hackney’s The Sea, The Sea is also a seafood processing lab with its own ‘shellfish hotel’ and walk-in dry-ageing room. Olivia Palamountain reports
Fresh off the boat from Pavilion Road in Chelsea, fish wholesaler The Sea, The Sea has landed in Hackney, bringing with it an immersive, omakase-style dining experience and a seafood processing plant all under the same railway arch in Acton Mews.
“A truly unique space somewhere between art installation, restaurant, laboratory and factory,” a window displaying a magnificent cut of dry-aged kingfish is the only clue to what lies behind the doors of this multi-purpose premises.
Inside, the moodily-lit arch reveals a catwalk of sorts, leading past jars of pickles and ferments to a futuristic semi-circular 12-seater bar.
Dramatic and intimate, the space makes a refreshing showcase for the company’s commitment to sourcing, delivering and cooking exceptional produce, a far cry from the usual “ahoy there” fish restaurant vibe.The Sea, The Sea – named by founder Alex Hunter – has long been a pioneer of the dry-aged fish movement in London, responsible for translating this delicacy down the food chain from Michelin-starred menus to neighbourhood gems (dry-aged salmon is now on the menu at local newcomer, Hackney Coterie).
The unit also houses a prep space and a walk-in dry-ageing room. Here, chefs can select fish for bespoke dry-ageing to be delivered when it reaches its peak. The Sea, The Sea also produces a range of stocks, sauces and garums in Carreira’s signature style for sale to the trade and consumers.
Also on site are live lobster and crab, housed in a high-tech “shellfish hotel” made up of specialist filtration tanks that mimic their natural habitat as closely as possible, keeping these delicious decapods relaxed and serene.That’s not the only point of difference to this business. Thanks to excellent direct links to fishermen in the south-west, the company has negotiated to collect produce in its own vans for transport to the Hackney facility and on to restaurants the very same day.
This allows The Sea, The Sea to cut out the middle man and ensure that only the freshest fish is received by its clients.
The company also sources fish and live shellfish from Scotland and exceptional overseas produce such as abalones, gooseneck barnacles and uni (sea urchin).
So, what’s on the menu? A 12-course feast of exquisite seafood-focused plates – think aged turbot, hot dog pods (an extra-sweet variety of pea) and honeycomb tomatoes cooked on a Japanese Konro grill and dressed with four types of vinegar, horse mackerel, pine nut, sake and shallots, plus a wacky langoustine ‘Wedding Cake’.
Eh? A year in development, the dish is a seaweed ‘egg cake’ baked in an artisanal Portuguese pot, seasoned with togarashi and stuffed with smoked langoustines. The cake is glazed in homemade almond milk and topped with langoustine ‘floss’ before being sliced and served in front of the guests. It is served with a sauce made from the langoustine heads.
If you find a freakier dish in London this year, I’d like to eat it (for the record, I loved the wedding cake).
Maxing out on flavour while preserving the integrity of the ingredients is no mean feat, but Carreira and his team have it down. There’s a pretty special bread course, too – you know, for padding.
Something of a lockdown success story, The Sea, The Sea hs truly turned the tide on the hospitality industry’s anni horribili.
Alex Hunter says: “When we lost our restaurant revenue in lockdown, we saw it as an opportunity to cross-train our team and grow our retail trade for which there has been a huge demand.
“As a result, the team is stronger, we have a better-rounded organisation, and our revenues have grown exponentially. With our Hackney facility, we can take this experience into product development, specialist wholesale and expand our online retail services to become a truly London-wide brand”.