Top Tables

Saltie Girl will make you happy as a clam – as long as you can afford it

At first, Kate Ng was sceptical about Saltie Girl’s new Mayfair restaurant, but the food is a significant improvement on the Boston export. The prices, however...

Thursday 01 June 2023 06:30 BST
New England lobster roll with house-made crisps are a must-have
New England lobster roll with house-made crisps are a must-have (Kate Ng)

I visited the original Saltie Girl in Boston last year, beckoned by the restaurant’s sexy red-head mascot (think pin-up Ariel) and the promise of quality seafood in the city. But all I remember is being sorely disappointed. The millennial pink walls were tired and in dire need of repainting; the prices were eye-watering and the expectation to tip generously hung over me and my emptying bank account like a dark cloud; and worst of all, the food was deeply mediocre.

Never mind, though. I chalked it up to the misfortune of having been had by trendiness. Saltie Girl became but a distant memory – until earlier this year, when I discovered it had opened a branch in Mayfair.

Experience meant I was immediately sceptical. The original restaurant had been so forgettable, why should this one be any different? In addition, it’s in Mayfair, where the only memorable thing about so many restaurants is the fact that they are seriously overpriced. I suppose if your clientele have enough money to throw around that they don’t really care about how anything tastes, it’s fair play. But it was certainly enough to make me question whether it would be worth going.

At the same time, I was curious to see how the new place would compare. Perhaps Saltie Girl could redeem itself on British shores? Maybe I wouldn’t leave a sad salty seadog, but instead a happy clam? There was only one way to find out.

These aren’t just any tinned fish – and you’ll pay for the pleasure (Kate Ng)

On my way into Saltie Girl, I make a mental note about the Mayfair Chippy next door, which has a huge line out the door. If tinned fish and lobster rolls don’t fill me, this place will surely do the trick. It turns out I needn’t have worried, but I will most certainly be thinking of the Mayfair Chippy the next time I’m in town.

Every surface in the shiny, new Saltie Girl is, well, shiny and new. It’s a far cry from the despondency of the Boston establishment, but I’m not letting myself get distracted by the newness of it all. Nevertheless, it was pretty and highly Instagrammable, and full. Cost of living woes do not exist in Mayfair, judging by this crowd: a gaggle of wealthy blonde women celebrating a birthday, a well-to-do couple on their anniversary dinner, a group of finance colleagues sinking cocktails and gossiping about their co-workers.

One of the restaurant’s main attractions is its extensive list of tinned fish. These aren’t just any tinned fish (Forget John West; even Brindisa Ortiz, the staple of London’s tinned fish lovers, is too low down the ladder to be served here). These are £16 anchovies, £14 sardines, £16 trout, and £34 clams in sealed metal boxes that are pried open and served on a board with French bread and butter, three types of salt and pickled peppers. And they are utterly delicious. We had smoked anchovies in EVOO from Spain, which were salty, fatty and perfect.

A New England lobster roll with house-made crisps are a must-have, and the price varies according to market rates. But don’t fret – you can guarantee that you’ll be paying a premium price. Just look at where you are. If you still require an indication, keep in mind that the lobster waffle is £32 and lobster frites are £65. Make of that what you will. At least there’s no going wrong with heavily buttered lobster in a bun, and the restaurant is fairly generous with the filling so you don’t feel like you’ve been shortchanged too much.

The dover sole meuniere should not be missed (Kate Ng)

We also share the dover sole meuniere, a classic dish of delicate, scrape-off-the-bones dover sole in a brown butter and caper sauce. Hispi cabbage and jersey royal potatoes make for some lovely sides, but then again, everything is better doused in butter. Overall, the meal was certainly better than the one I had in Boston (I’m talking about you, ultra-dry Saltie Girl Burger) and I enjoyed listening to salacious workplace gossip from the table next to us while savouring my half of the lobster roll.

There were a couple of hiccups with service: waiters forgetting our drinks, our sides and to ask us for our dessert order. This soured the experience a little – at the price customers are expected to shell out for a tin of clams, you would’ve thought that staff training would be a priority.

I left Saltie Girl feeling closer to happy clam than salty seadog – but unless I win the lottery or someone else is paying, I’ll probably stick to the Mayfair Chippy.

Saltie Girl, 15 N Audley St, London, W1K 6WZ | | 020 3893 3000

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