Prawn on the Lawn

We’ve been having rather a fun time of late at independent gourmet merchants that double up as restaurants. Following a sumptuous eve at butchers Hill & Szrok a few weeks ago, we ventured west from Broadway Market to the nattily named Prawn on the Lawn, near Highbury Fields.

Set up by Rick Toogood, who earned his scales at Fishworks, the bijou space is fishmongers by day, restaurant by noon and night (lunch and dinner, that is). Crustaceans and south coast catches of the day lie on ice in the window, illuminated by lights hanging in fisherman’s lanterns. The inviting street scene sets the ambience for inside, which may be small, but employs innovative design quirks to make the most of the cosy space (much like the inside of a boat, aptly). Diners gather around upturned barrels and along the raised wooden bars that line the exposed-brick and white-tiled walls, above which are elegant iron rails, from where various of the courses are served in hanging bird trays or scales. Overhead, lights shine from within woven lobster pots; in the back, but touchably close, the kitchen team furiously chops, shucks and dices. It’s seductively snug, with space for 35 covers.

The chalked blackboard menu changes daily, but we started with three wildly different oysters – briny, small and perky Jersey Rocks; longer, creamier Carlingfords from Ireland and our favourite, the pink, meaty wild Black Waters form the Essex coast. Washed down, of course, with fizz: a delicious, almost appley sparkling Albarino (hard to find in London, we were told).

The eponymous Prawn on the Lawn was next – a luxurious and generous smashing of mustard-seedy avocado on homemade soda bread topped with prawns and chilli that was gloriously fresh. Following swiftly were three spears each of cold and crisp asparagus with the lightest of crabmeats and crème fraiche: zingy and moreish.

Robustness came from potted mackerel pate with tiny beetroot cubes, spring onion, garlic, crème fraiche and a kick of horseradish, served with sweet yet tart gooseberry chutney that cut through the meaty intensity. Seared tuna slices were brought to life with chilli and lime in an Asian twist on proceedings, while jumbo prawns, served on the half shell came Thai style with ginger and carrot, and a crisp, tropical glass of Fasto Verdejo. Yum.

Each course was but a few mouthfuls, so there was ample room for two puddings – thank heavens as they were sublime: a cooled salted caramel pot that was a gooey mass of toffee deliciousness, served with strawberries; and an affogato drizzled with sweet, heady sherry and little amaretti biscuits.

We’ll definitely be going back, but next time, we might just take them up on their offer (as highlighted in the window): “bring your own dish for an oven-ready fish”.

A Little Bird Loves

Fortnum's Easter