“The sea is made for sharing”; so says new Notting Hill fish restaurant Bucket. Serving up every fishy flavour you could imagine, from their generous signature sharing buckets through to beautifully hand selected oyster platters, if there was ever a place for some real ‘food with friends’, it’s this charming Westbourne Grove eatery.
Laid-back and friendly from the moment you enter, the vibe in Bucket seems designed to put a big smile on your face. There’s an almost Mediterranean outdoor dining feel, but with a distinctly English style; think exposed brickwork, wicker furniture, wood, bamboo and a stylish natural colour palette of greens, greys and beige. A trendy bar with seating all along it takes up the length of one wall, while the opposite one is lined with cushion-filled, bench-seated booths. Everything about them is comfortable and cosy and makes you wish you had a bigger group with you to snuggle up against (or if you’re there as a couple, as we were, to stretch out and take up space. I had to refrain from actually putting my feet up, I was so comfortable). The staff are all ebullient and charming and make you feel like returning friends rather than passing customers.
Food with friends seems to be at the heart of Bucket. This is a place for socialising! We came early in the evening on a Wednesday so it wasn’t at it’s busiest, but our fellow diners were all large, good-natured groups, all ages and many of them local.
The style at Bucket is sophisticated rustic; big plates to share or small tapas-style plates to pass around. As with the decor, there’s a Mediterranean edge but the heart is recognisably British. Sustainability is also at the forefront of the menu – all the food at Bucket is seasonal and sourced from as local a source as possible.
Now I would travel across the whole of London on foot to eat a good platter of oysters, and when we dined at Bucket they were sublime. They are selected weekly, by the owners themselves who zone in on the best available for the time of year and serve just that for the following week. This does mean you won’t have options, but when they are this tasty (when we visited it was sweet, juicy Combray oysters on the menu) I’m not complaining. And Bucket have a simply too-tempting- to-refuse deal which I shall certainly be coming back for; from 4pm-7pm weekdays (and 4pm-6pm weekends) oysters are just £1 each with every bottle, jug, cocktail or bucket of beers!
From there we were torn between ordering an array of small plates, the sharing boards of whole roasted fish, or the eponymous buckets. The marinated anchovies from the specials board (£6.50) that day were our first pick and were meaty, sweet and delicious. Likewise, the two buckets we chose of mussels with white wine, garlic, parsley and cream (£13.50 for a small bucket, £26 for a large) and the Fritto Misto (similarly priced) were perfect to share and surprisingly light. A beguilingly simple bowl of cucumber and seaweed salad with sesame seeds (£6.50) was a perfect palate cleanser and cut through any hint of fattiness. The only small misstep was the lobster mac and cheese (£12.50), which lacked a little of the cheesy rich indulgence that normally makes it such a treat.
Certainly, there was plenty on the menu we would have loved to try but were too full and too few to do so. Which just means, fortunately, a return visit with friends is undoubtedly on the cards to try everything we missed!
Much like the oysters the drinks menu is exquisitely well-chosen; inventive cocktails and an excellent choice of wines. We sipped first on the deliciously refreshing Daily Special Cocktail of Erika vodka, cucumber, mint, lime, apple juice and elderflower (£10.50), followed swiftly by a moreish Bloody Mary Shot (£3.50) which was the perfect accompaniment to our oysters.
The wine list is sublime and unusual and – thrilled to see a German white on the menu – I ordered a delicious glass of the Pauly Generations Riesling (£11.50, pricey but worth it), while my companion ordered an equally lovely (and delightfully named) Baron de Badassiere Picpoult (£7.50).
In a nutshell
Bucket manages the rare feet of being stylish while feeling casual, being effortlessly cool but genuinely warm-hearted. And, as I am sure I have made clear, it is a place that I can’t wait to return to!