Jazz night at The Wet Fish Café

Wet Fish Clement RegertThis month the Wet Fish is draped in guitars so owner André Millodot decided to invite a talented guitarist to lead his latest mid-week music night and say thank you to his guest Stephen Marlow, who made the guitars. French jazz musician Clement Regert brought along the rest of his trio, a drummer and a keyboardist who filled in the bass and harmonies.

We arrived for the second sitting just as the trio was kicking off. These music dinner events are very relaxed, as you’d expect from the Wet Fish, so you are seated and order when you are ready. The band played while we ate but diners were able to chat quietly and everyone paused to clap with gusto after each piece. In true West Hampstead-style we happened to be seated next to our real-life neighbours so took the opportunity to get to know them a bit better.

Mr Regert entertained everyone with his dry, young-Parisian humour and his playing was note perfect. The drummer carried the set despite softening the volume for the second sitting. A rousing and unexpected rendition of the theme of Pirates of the Caribbean finished off a very enjoyable, chilled midweek night out.

Wall of sound: Art guitars on display at local restaurant


The Wet Fish Café on West End Lane often showcases artists’ work on its tiled walls but, for another week, there’s a different kind of artwork on display.

West Hampstead resident Steven Marlow, builds professional-quality guitars for musicians, celebrity clients and collectors from all over the world, working closely with each customer to create bespoke instruments to their specifications. His guitars are in many celebrity collections, including those of Queen’s legendary guitarist Brian May and The Kooks’ frontman Luke Pritchard.

For his ongoing Art Guitars project, he collaborates with established and up-and-coming artists, most notably leading British artist Stuart Semple, to create these unique and striking works.

Steven said the Wet Fish Café was the logical place for his latest exhibition as “I’ve been going to the Wet Fish for years”.

For anyone interested in seeing Steven’s work, you have until 30th October to go and check out these beauties over brunch…


Steven Marlow, guitar maker, with Wet Fish Café owner André Millodot

Steven Marlow, guitar maker, with Wet Fish Café owner André Millodot

Recipe: The Wet Fish Café’s Salmon Salad

If you’ve ever yearned to recreate the West Hampstead dining experience in your own home, now’s your chance.

The first in this new series of recipes in association with local restaurants is this deliciously simple salmon salad, courtesy of The Wet Fish Café. We whipped it up in the West Hampstead Life kitchen and it turned out rather well – tender flakes of fish combined with creamy salad leaves, the fresh pop of garden peas, and a crunch and saltiness from the toasted seeds.

We found all the ingredients locally, though admittedly we substituted Japanese sesame seeds from Sainsbury’s for the Peruvian sesame seeds stated in the ingredients list and the pink Himalayan salt was just generic sea salt in our version.

Why not give it a whirl this weekend, and let us know how you get on! You can use the comments section below (where you can add photos) or tweet your culinary triumph with the hashtag #whampcooks.

Salmon salad. Left: The Wet Fish Café's dish. Right: The West Hampstead Life version

Salmon salad. Left: The Wet Fish Café’s dish. Right: The West Hampstead Life version

The Wet Fish Café’s organic salmon salad with quinoa and toasted seeds

Serves 2

2 fillets organic salmon (about 160g each) – organic salmon is paler pink in colour
120g baby spinach leaves
40g red chard leaves
About 12-14 small new potatoes
90g green peas
60g organic quinoa
sprinkling mixed toasted pumpkin seeds

20ml vegetable oil
14ml extra virgin olive oil
20g Dijon mustard
12ml lemon juice

Sesame mix
Black Peruvian sesame seeds
Pink Himalayan salt crystals
Black pepper

Pan-fry salmon fillet skin-side down until skin is golden brown, repeat all around (until fish is medium – total of around 12 minutes), leave on the side and keep warm.

Cook quinoa according to packet instructions; boil new potatoes. When cool enough to handle, slice the potatoes.

Make the dressing: combine all ingredients and whisk well.

Prepare the sesame mix: combine salt, a pinch of freshly ground black pepper and sesame seeds and blitz into a dry, rough powder. (We used a coffee grinder, but a pestle and mortar should do the trick)

Wash spinach and mix with red chard leaves, add the cooked quinoa, green peas, potatoes and dressing.

Place salad on plates with the warm fish on top. Sprinkle with toasted pumpkin and crushed black sesame mix. Squeeze a few drops of lemon juice on top, and your dish is ready to serve!

Burglary at The Wet Fish Café

Burglars broke into The Wet Fish Café on Sunday night. They made off with the safe, which had only a few hundred pounds in it. However, the burglars  also caused around £1,000 worth of damage to the building.

Owner André Millodot arrived at work on Monday morning but didn’t immediately notice the chaos. “I opened up as usual, put the lights on, put the music on… then noticed the smashed bathroom.”


The burglars entered through the toilet window at the back, which is accessed from the small service road behind the row of businesses on West End Lane. They had managed to detach the grille that covers the window, which must have taken considerable force. Pulling down these bars also ripped away the wooden frame and surrounding brickwork.

An upstairs neighbour later confirmed that he’d heard “heavy banging” at around 11pm. “It was raining heavily and we closed early”, said André. The neighbour assumed that the noise was people upstairs moving heavy furniture about, so didn’t investigate further.

It’s the fourth break-in in the restaurant’s 10-year history.

Police and forensics investigated at the scene, and there is a CCTV camera in the service road, which hopefully will give some clues.

By the end of Monday, André confirmed that the toilet had been fixed and bars re-installed on the window. Although the restaurant had been closed over the Christmas period for a thorough sprucing up, the bathroom hadn’t been part of that work.

Despite the New Year setback, André is staying positive.”It could have been worse,” he said, even managing a wry smile at the joke they’d coincidentally chalked on the board outside earlier on the Sunday.


Tom finds room for a Wet Fish crumble

Valiantly battling a vicious hangover, following another all-dayer comparing Sunday pub roasts in NW London (yes, life’s hard), I struggled along to The Wet Fish Café for a spot of Monday-blues-bashing lunch.

Things got off to a promising start when my soya latte was delivered, as requested, extra hot. They probably think I’m a real loser, spoiling their quality coffee in this manner, but that’s how I like it… and it was lovely.

Having eaten half a ton of assorted animals the previous day, something healthy seemed sensible, especially as I needed to speed up the healing of my hand injury, which I assume everyone in London is well aware of by now. And, before you worry further, yes, I can still open a bottle of wine with a normal, non-cheating corkscrew.

So, my “breakfast salad” arrived; an instantly appetising plate of herbed scrambled eggs, diced tomato with shreds of red onion, feta, spinach, and joyously ripe avocado (a word I can never spell without, errm, a spellchecker) – and some toasted brown bread which was great; satisfying, chewy texture yet crisp at the edges. Proper bread maketh proper toast.

Hard to find fault; the eggs were especially fine, the spinach fresh, though perhaps cherry tomatoes would be even more pleasing to go with the feta, and I could have managed a couple more of the toasts, with some Marmite also in attendance (probably available had I asked).

Sensing my hangover needed one final battering, I checked out the day’s counter cakes, and the menu’s dessert options. Like an arrow zoning in on a bullseye, my gaze focussed very quickly on the rhubarb and apple crumble with cinnamon and raisin ice cream. Wow – superb! The balance of acidity and sweetness was perfect, and the ice cream was really special.

So there you have it. The Wet Fish Cafe – it’s almost worth deliberately inducing a hangover for! 

The Wet Fish Café under the microscope

This was a whole new venture. Not one, but two tables for the first #whampreview of the autumn. Seventeen of us assembled at The Lion beforehand – and it was great to see so many new faces alongside one or two of the usual suspects.

Tom escorted his table of eight across to The Wet Fish Café first, where an entirely separate party of 12 was already seated. There was no doubt this was going to be a challenging night for both the kitchen and the front-of-house staff. But how can you not love a restaurant that has the “#whamp” twitter hashtag secreted on its menu?

By the time my table of nine appeared some 30 minutes later, the place was already buzzing and the chat from Tom’s table suggested they were having a good time – reinforced by the generous free glasses of Prosecco that we all received.

As well as being the first time we’d gone for a larger group and staggered tables (to help the kitchen), it was also the first time that a restaurant knew we were coming to review it. As I explained in the set-up post, I am moving these evenings slightly away from an attempt to anonymously review local eateries, and more towards a sedentary (and gastronomic) way to meet fellow whampers.

Not that this means we won’t be talking about the meal in the write-ups!

New menu
The Wet Fish Café has just launched its autumn menu, and there are some new faces in the kitchen. Owner André is feeling bullish about the coming months after what has been a tricky period for lots of local businesses who have been feeling the economic squeeze. The ethos of the menu is still much the same as it tries to deliver on the restaurant’s tagline of “modern comfort food”, but it’s been pared down slightly and a couple of lighter dishes have been added. It reads well, and has a contemporary feel to it – unpretentious and very appealing.

On my table, the pear and stilton salad was proving a popular choice and everyone seemed to enjoy it: “excellent,” said James, and Carl said it was “beautifully presented”.

Three of us shared a half-dozen Colchester native oysters, which came with the requisite shallot vinegar and lemon. Maybe a bottle of Tabasco could be put on the table too? Tom’s table shared a couple of the main course platters for starters, which they found a little disappointing, especially as the advertised ciabatta and olives were missing completely. The platters aren’t really big enough to share between more than two people, but at least everyone got to try the chorizo, which was the undisputed hit. Eugene praised its “unusual chilli kick”, while Carl suggested all the other West Hampstead restaurants come to see how chorizo should be served. Ant simply said “10/10”.

Zoë and Anna’s crayfish cocktail and calamari starters looked nice enough, but they weren’t blown away by either.

The main attractions
Given how busy the small kitchen was, we weren’t expecting super quick service, so we tucked into the wine. Both the tables liked the house red – a Merlot-Corvina, and I think the house white is one of the better value white wines in West Hampstead. The next red up the list – a Cabernet Malbec, divided opinion. Tom really liked it, while Kat was unconvinced.

Tom’s table were a course ahead of us, so we watched as they enjoyed their mains. The broad consensus was very positive, with a few quibbles. Kat had the sea bass, which initially arrived without the broccoli and mussels, despite correctly having potatoes instead of noodles as requested; Eugene’s sea bass came out perfectly, so presumably this was just a communication mishap caused by the switch. The table also had trouble with a side order of kale, which arrived cold and undercooked. I had kale with my main and it was fine, so seems like a glitch rather than an intrinsic problem with cooking kale.

The salmon, which was popular on both tables, seemed to be the most consistent dish. Tom described his as “beautifully seasoned and cooked, and it worked with the wonderful intense celeriac”, while Claire T also described it as beautifully cooked. Next to me, Sarah’s salmon certainly disappeared quickly and this looked one of the most attractive dishes. Ryan agreed it was fresh and a good size.

The tempura cod, one of the new dishes on the menu, was another popular choice. Debbie was very pleased with hers, as was Claire D, who confessed she likes ketchup with most things, but this didn’t need it! James enjoyed his, but admitted that he wasn’t sure that the fact it was tempura batter made a huge difference. He did, however, say it gave him “a warm feeling on a cold night.” Jen’s was tempting enough that Anthony wished he’d ordered it.

Zoë sadly experienced a foreign body in her food: a small piece of plastic, maybe off a piece of tupperware. It rather put her off her grilled vegetables with quinoa main course, although she also said – with some justification – that it would be better described as quinoa with grilled vegetables given the relative proportions, and it needed more feta.

Ana and Ant both had the fillet steak – a large hunk of meat for both. Ana, who had been on a fish diet for some weeks, seemed to devour hers at pace. Ant, having ordered it medium-well, thought his steak was undercooked. He also thought it was a bit too chewy, which is certainly odd for a fillet steak. I know André is really pleased with this particular cut of meat, so something clearly had gone wrong here. Ant did say that the potaotes were good, and the sauce was delicious, and that he’d have welcomed more of it – perhaps even served on the side.

We tested most of the menu out. Brad had the pasta of the day, which was “tasty” and “filled me up quickly”, Carl had the platter, and I had the braised oxtail, which I enjoyed immensely. The meat fell off the bone perfectly and the proportion of meat to mash to veg was just right.

By the time my table had finished our main courses, it was getting late and only two of us opted for dessert. Tom’s table had been more eager. Tom himself chose the carrot cake with ice cream, declaring the cake “moist and substantial” with a big kick of ginger. Debbie and Ant enjoyed the warm chocolate cake (“Yum! Best thing of the evening,” said Ant). Kat and Claire tried the fig and honey croissant pudding, which had “a very light and spongey texture, not overly sweet and with a subtle crème anglaise”. I had poached pear with ice cream – or at least I tried to, but when I popped back from the toilet, half of it had mysteriously vanished and there were some guilty faces around the table.

One might argue that three big tables within 45 minutes of each other was an ambitious ask for a neighbourhood restaurant but, by and large, the food delivered the comforting feel the menu promises. WIth its subtle lighting and well-judged soundtrack, it’s easy to see why Anna said that she wanted to love the Wet Fish, even if she’d been a bit underwhelmed on this visit. However, she did say she’d give it one more go because it’s such a nice place.

The price per head differed considerably between the tables. Tom’s bunch of alcoholics ended up paying £42/head, while my relatively abstemious group only had to shell out £30 each. Anthony (paying £42) felt the prices were a little high, while there was a sense of a welcome surprise around me that our meal had come in under budget.

In the days of old, we used to score food, service, value and overall enjoyment separately. That would take too long now, so everyone just gave an overall score out of 10.
Tom’s table: 6.9
Jonathan’s table: 6.3

Overall, the evening was definitely a success – plenty of new friends were made, the chat was suitably silly and entertaining, and the Wet Fish atmosphere won the day. I still think that for a “special” meal out in West Hampstead, this is the place to come.

The Wet Fish Café
242 West End Lane
T: 020 7443 9222

(photos courtesy of Brad and Anthony)

Good food for a good cause

Last night saw 40 people, including quite a few #whampers, back at The Wet Fish Café for the second supper club. This time there was a Sicilian twist to the gastronomic experience, but a very local twist to the evening overall as we raised money for #whampforgood cause The Winch.

For a review of the evening, let me hand over to Jo Hodson, a veteran of the November supper club:

“Another fun evening at The Wet Fish Café!. This is such a simple idea that works so well – André and his team put on a three course meal with three different wines and all the guests sit at long tables and enjoy the evening.

What makes these evenings so good? Well for a start, André and his team create a relaxed and convivial atmosphere – it’s like going to a perfectly hosted dinner party. The restaurant is beautifully lit and the long tables mean the the diverse but always interesting guests are encouraged to mingle. The wines were expertly introduced by Victoria Curatolo, a very glamourous Sicilian, whose family-run vineyard, Villa Tonino, supplied the wines for the evening.

The menu this time was built around the wines; crab with avocado and a chilli and red pepper sauce – a perfect balance of texture and taste. I’m no wine buff but even I could tell that the wine served with this (Grillo, Villa Tonino, 2008) further enhanced the flavours of the food leaving a nice lemony tingle on the tongue. This was followed by fillet of beef with pink peppercorn jus, cheesy mash (divine) and broccoli, washed down with a lovely smoky red wine – Baglio Curatolo, Villa Tonino 2006. Finally, and in my opnion, the pièce de resistance – almond tart, marsala mascarpone and raspberry – melt-in-the-mouth pastry! The fruit and nut flavours of the Marsala Riserva Superiore served alongside went perfectly with it.

It was a really pleasant way to spend a Monday evening – the atmosphere, food and drink alone would have led to that but it was all rounded off nicely by a thank you from Paul of the Winchester Project a local charity who were benefitting from the night. All in all everything combined to leave a very nice taste in the mouth.”

There’s a very swish video of the evening here

(Photo: James Leigh)

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Supper Club at The Wet Fish Café

Thanks to Jane (@mayfield22) for this review of Monday’s first supper club at The Wet Fish Café.

I’m already quite a fan of The Wet Fish Café so when I saw a Twitter invitation to buy tickets to a special ‘supper club’ I was intrigued. The Wet Fish brings a welcome dose of sophistication to West End Lane and has the best cappuccino I have tasted north of Marylebone. But what is a supper club?
Thirty five guests arrived on a blustery Monday evening to sit at two long candlelit tables for the ultimate dinner party. Andre the owner explained how he wanted to bring together local residents who enjoy food and wine in a more sociable atmosphere than usual. It worked; six of us at my end of the table quickly introduced ourselves and got on with setting West Hampstead and the world to rights.

Each course was paired with a wine starting with a delicate fish stew paired with a white wine from Monterrei in Spain. The main course was introduced by a wine specialist who challenged us to taste and guess the red wine selected to pair with the upcoming duck confit. My companions guessed the Bordeaux style but were pleasantly surprised to hear it was from Israel. Dessert was delicious; a modern, light interpretation of trifle. Some of my table thought the rosé wine jelly too bitter, I disagreed but found the accompanying Australian pink Moscato too sweet.
As always the serving team were super friendly and along with the kitchen coped remarkably well with delivering great food to 35 of us at the same time. I think the music could have been quieter so that people could hear one another better across the tables but I think it’s a great idea and hope another will be planned in the not too distant future.

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