The oyster’s your world at Galley
Gin and tonic oysters, memorable scallops and a ‘completely delicious pudding’ make for a glamorous night out in Upper Street
09 November, 2017 — By Tom Moggach
Seafood is the star of the show at Galley in Islington
WITH any new restaurant, the first challenge is creating a buzz when you open. But the hardest bit – as all the pros know – is keeping this momentum going in the years ahead.
“It’s been here two years? I don’t believe it,” said my friend, soaking up the bouncy vibes at Galley restaurant in Upper Street in Islington.
We’d booked for a weekday evening. The music was pumping; the bar gleaming; the waiting staff all smiley and keen to please.
Galley has a reputation for seafood, although they also offer meat and very decent homemade pasta.
There’s a snug bar on the left when you walk in the door, mixing up ambitious cocktails like the French Deal: gin, St-Germain, Lillet Blanc, fresh dill and a cube of frozen passion fruit.
To the right, the dining room stretches way back – lit by familiar bare filament bulbs and with dozens of framed prints jostling for attention on the walls.
The kitchen is open plan, so we grabbed a pair of orange, upholstered stools to watch the chefs in action.
Co-owner and head chef Marcel Grzyb spent a decade cooking at Randall & Aubin, a relentlessly busy seafood place in Soho.
This explains a lot about Galley – especially the fishy focus and high-octane energy, where they strive to make every night feel like a Friday.
The menu is quietly ambitious: grilled octopus and chorizo with a squid ink risotto, for example. Or pan-fried stone bass with herb gnocchi and a wild mushroom sauce. But it’s the oyster menu that really grabs my attention, served straight up or with half a dozen clever riffs and twists.
There’s a gin and tonic oyster; or a deep fried number in tempura batter with tomato and chilli jam.
The pickled oyster is surprisingly fiery, with cubes of cucumber and jalapeño; the Asian exotic with notes of ginger and soy.
Best of all was the classic Rockefeller – flashed under the grill with a splash of cream, butter, spinach or parsley and melty cheese.
Of our starters, the scallops were most memorable. These are served in the shell on a velouté of butternut squash subtly spiked with cardamom – then scattered with pancetta and hazelnuts.
Like many restaurants, the chefs go heavy on the butter. The sauce for my spaghetti main was almost too rich and needed more crab meat for extra punch.
My friend’s whole lemon sole was just as buttery but perfectly cooked.
She was particularly thrilled with her sticky toffee. “It’s a completely delicious pudding, which is hard to find.”
Top marks to The Galley for effort. The team works hard to provide a glamorous night out.
Seafood is not cheap. The vast fishy platters here are £45 per head; a three-course meal will cost about the same, before drinks. But that’s par for the course.
I’ll be back – mainly to explore the rest of their oyster menu.
105–106 Upper Street, N1
020 3670 0740