The Sea, The Sea, Hackney restaurant review ★★★★★
The Sea, The Sea chef's table experience in Hackney is a unique blend of freshness and inventiveness that will leave you longing for more
The restaurant is a stone's throw from Haggerston station, tucked away under a railway arch in a cobbled stone alleyway. It is raining hard when I arrive with my friend Hannah. We find ourselves transfixed at the sight of a dead giant tuna hanging in true Damien Hirst style in the front window. TSTS is about to give us a complete ocean immersion.
The entrance door opens onto a concrete-walled corridor that leads to a half-circular green table facing a grand kitchen. Our outfits still wet from the rain, we walk past dark contemporary seascape paintings and shelf-lined tanks filled with live crustaceans. A minimalist electro playlist runs in the background. A warm fish broth prepared with fish bones and pink peppercorn awaits us at the bar, and the lights have a faint green glow; the scene is set.
Perched on high, comfortable stools, we soon get acquainted with fellow guests (12 in total) and receive a warm welcome from our master of ceremony, Pedro. We will taste eight courses: our menu is kept a secret, but I know it should include the famous Langoustine and fried milk pastry and the Pão de Lò, Leandro Carreira’s take on a Portuguese sponge cake.
We start with a sea urchin infused in hazelnut milk, which is nutty, elegant and straightforward. Next up is a smoked eel hot dog, steamed, baked, fried, and served with foraged wild onions. It is Taiwanese street food for spoilt adults and yummy as hell. Another highlight is the chef’s take on Chueng Fun, a dry, popular Cantonese dish with a crisp and soft texture.
But perhaps the bluefin tuna – the very one we saw hanging in the window – dry-aged and served in a sick soya milk steals the show. This incredible dish, new to the menu, combines the gooeyness of reduced milk fat with the intense ocean freshness of the fish. When the famous langoustine pastry is served, I am surprised to still feel hungry. Fortunately, dessert is on the way: the Pão de Lò is served with toast fennel ice cream and coated in olive oil. It evokes a childhood comfy dessert with a twist. It’s no wonder that the recipe hasn’t changed since its creation.
On our way out, a fish delivery arrives in the front part of the restaurant. It has just been caught in Cornwall and will get prepared overnight – The Sea, The Sea supplies more than 150 restaurants in London. The seafood's incredible freshness and Carreira's inventiveness make for a deliciously light yet sophisticated culinary experience. We will both come back.
TSTS has just introduced a new series highlighting emerging talent across the UK food scene with a new Sunday residency series. It will kick off on 12 November with Rahel Stephanie, founder of supper club Spoons.
Tasting menu per person without alcohol: £90
To book and for more information, click here.