Whether spinning round on a giant wheel, sipping Champagne at the top of an arrow-shaped skyscraper, or dancing to a silent disco as you cruise the Thames, there are endless different ways to see London. That’s what makes this city great; just when you think you know every grubby stretch of pavement in an area, a new bar will come out of the woodwork. It happened in Paddington recently; while you may know it as the soulless commuter zone, I now know it as the place that one of London’s loveliest restaurant departs from. I clambered aboard The Prince Regent to find London Shell Co, a floating restaurant that cruises Regent’s Canal and cooks some of the city’s best seafood.

London Shell Co

Chosen as one of the Guardian's 50 Best Restaurants, London Shell Co is more than just a canal barge.

Venue and Atmosphere

Cruising means different things depending on where you are in the city; Hampstead Heath involves precisely zero boats and along the Thames screams tourist trap, but on The Prince Regent, the term is preluded by 'date-perfect' and 'delicious'. Docked at Paddington Central, the boat is an unmissable bright blue canal barge painted with swirling white writing. Inside, any trace of its former life has been stripped out and replaced with simple wooden tables, a tiny bar, and, in the back, a fully functional kitchen. With space for about 10 tables of four, couples are expected to share, which at first may sound like every seasoned Londoners worst nightmare, but give it a few glasses of the excellent wine, and you will be swapping dating horror stories in no time.

The front of the boat is open and covered by a tarpaulin; on sunny days, four lucky diners can sit outside as the emerald-green lawns of embassies and Primrose Hill mansions float by. The night starts with Toby, a sea salty, seasoned captain, who talks us through safety and boat facts before heading back to helm our trip. For the next two and half hours, the barge putters along Regent’s Canal, passing a zoo, through deep and dark tunnels, and all the way up to the student-lined waters of Camden.

London Shell Co

On tables of four, the atmosphere is lively and sociable aboard the boat. 

Food and Drink

London Shell Co run the kitchen on The Prince Regent and work with renowned fishmongers to create a five-course seafood menu. Dishes start off light and get progressively heavier with a wine pairing that can either be standard (£35) or exceptional (£55). Oysters from The Wright Brothers were served raw with a salty brine and contrasted with brittle and crunchy angel hair pasta that had been fried for a crisp-like dish. English wine has gone from a bit of a joke to the hottest bottle on the dinner table, and our glass of sparkling Hattingley Valley was a sweet addition to the oyster.

The next dish was similarly simple as a thick, deeply smoky cod roe was lightened with radish, lettuce and a fresh glass of vino verde. Welsh mussels were served next in a garlic sauce, but for me the standout of the entire evening was the main. A chunk of flaky monkfish was cooked with white beans and charred courgettes, which was saved from being too heavy on a hot day with a zingy, sharp salsa verde. Whoever said red wine should be served room-temperature, clearly hadn’t tried the chilled beaujolais that was served with the monkfish, which combined with the salsa verde for a biting freshness.

London Shell Co

Seafood is sourced from London's best fishmongers and seasonal producers.

Summary

London Shell Co is Lovely, as in proper, capital ‘L’, gooey-eyed lovely. With a monkfish dish that still makes my mouth water, scenery straight from a Hollywood movie, and a sociable atmosphere, the memory of London Shell Co is what is going to be keeping me warm this winter.