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  1. Wealth
April 19, 2013updated 29 Jan 2016 2:58pm

Sitwell Scoffs: Geales, Notting Hill

By William Sitwell

Geales is an old, but recently and tastefully tarted up, fish restaurant in Notting Hill Gate, which opened in 1939.

Geales is an old, but recently and tastefully tarted up, fish restaurant in Notting Hill Gate, which opened in 1939.

It’s in an area known as Hillgate village. And a sweet little Londony village it is too. This I know because about 20 years ago I lived there for a time.

It has everything you would want from a village. There are two village pubs: The Hillgate and the Uxbridge Arms. I frequented the latter which was – and still is, gauged by a recent visit – filled with nutters who never seem to work and still mysteriously have enough money to spend all day in there drinking.

It’s a proper pub, by which I mean it doesn’t serve food – except for pork scratchings – and you’ll get into a merry chat with the locals. The village also has an Indian restaurant – the excellent Malabar, famed for its buffet at the weekend – and a Thai place, and the odd Greek and Italian restaurant.

Magic brandy

The first Italian restaurant my father ever took me to used to be in the village – Arlecchino – as well as another whose name I can’t remember, where the owner did the same trick every night by pretending to spill a ‘magic’ glass of brandy over you and Earl Spencer once de-bagged Tony Blackburn – or at least threatened to, and something also may or may not have happened with a plant pot.

So, you see, the perfect village. Plenty of pubs, cheap restaurants, nutters, no cows and also a cinema and tube station round the corner to whizz you into the city.

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And there’s Geales. Geales was bought by a flash dude called Mark Fuller in 2006. He’s a relic of the 1980s – big hair, white trousers, calls waitresses he doesn’t know darling, has big white cars, is very charming when he needs to be and, I suspect, dishes out the kinds of bollockings to errant staff that Marco Pierre White would envy.

He probably shed more tears than George Osborne this week because he seems to be the kind of boy done good Thatcherite entrepreneur who has a stable of restaurants, clubs and hotels under the umbrella company Concept Venues. And if that isn’t a name straight out of the 80s Duran Duran didn’t shoot videos on sailing boats off the coast of Antigua.

The food

But however Fuller goes about his business it works for Geales. Dinner started with nice dollops of taramasalata with delicious nutty and crusty bread. There was a wonderful whole soft shell crab – is it me or do they so often come in bits and not look like crabs? The tempura batter was crunchy and light, a little sauce of onion and chilli added bite to the gently flavoured crab and we nodded in approval as we ate.

The food was ably assisted by large glugs of tart Picpoul, one of my favourite wines when it’s bone dry yet fruity, as it was this time.

Then I had haddock and chips, as the waiter suggested. ‘It’s very big, the biggest haddock I have seen,’ said the waiter. And he was right. It was a massive fish, too big for the plate, but he was rightly proud of it.

And what a tasty fish it was. Cooked to perfection, the flecks of flesh fell away in perfect lines as my fork and knife cut through, and it was so tender – vulnerable almost – think Chancellor of the Exchequer at the funeral of a political matriarch. It had been cooked so well that there was that was that pocket of air between the batter and the fish. And as we know, the chef at Geales is a master of batter.

My dinner guest had gone for moules marinieres.  Which I reckoned was too creamy. I think chefs cheat when they pile in the cream and nothing is so perfect and simple as mussels cooked with just onions and wine. Still the chef couldn’t help himself as he sloshed away but it wasn’t my problem as I hadn’t ordered it and if I had, as I do with scrambled eggs, I’d have asked for no cream.

Stuffed on mussels and haddock, we denied ourselves their treacle tart and apple crumble. But I can vouch for them as on previous occasions I have gorged on and marvelled at the puddings.

Geales is a perfect little place. Good service, the walls clad in hues of grey blue, with a touch of fancy wallpaper in the loos. Every village should have one.

Read more from Food Friday

Read more from Sitwell Scoffs


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