By Jonathan Hatchman @JonHatchmn
“Shrimp is the fruit of the sea,” once quoted Mykelti Williamson’s character “Bubba Blue” in the Tom Hanks led academy-award winning ‘Forrest Gump’, unbelievably released a whole 20 years ago. And Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. – the latest addition to Central London’s Trocadero centre, sandwiched right between tourist destinations Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square, boasts a menu that, evidently, is bursting with a plethora of different shrimp-based dishes as well as many more American-inspired treats. Themed heavily around the 1994 blockbuster, surprisingly after eighteen years and 40 worldwide restaurants openings later, the hugely successful USA restaurant chain has finally opened its first franchise here in the UK, having first opened its doors in Monterey California in 1996.
With vast quantities of shrimp aside, the menu comprises all of the movie-orientated favourites (Lt. Dan’s Surf & Turf, Jenny’s Catch, etc.) as well as specialities from the grill, notably including Southern Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes, Dixie style Baby Back Ribs, and, of course, a USDA certified Angus Top Sirloin Steak. However, as the movie and menu manage to present, with extreme clarity, Bubba Gump’s is all about the Fish.
Featuring a seafood selection that includes Lobster Claw, Snow Crab, Mussels and much more, as well as pan-seared Tilapia, and Mahi-Mahi, so it was only inevitable that we would opt towards Forrest’s Seafood Feast (£15.50), also voted as the number-one guest favourite. Arriving at the table in a selection of four paper cones, including a handful of delicious signature breaded Southern Fried Shrimp (or King Prawns as we like to call them on this side of the pond), a helping of chip-shop style bite-sized chunks of fish, albeit substituting standard Cod with Hoki fish dredged and fried in a Bayou styled batter, providing a refreshing break from the traditional British Friday night takeaway dish.
While the star of the plate was, undoubtedly, the authentic American Hush Pups: breaded bites of shrimp, white fish and sweetcorn, the latter of which adding a whole new dimension to the largely fishy feast. All topped off with chips, and homemade coleslaw conveying an omnipotent celery taste, alongside a selection of dips such as a zingy Cocktail Sauce, fragrant Tartare and a Remoulade, which tasted even better with the addition of the Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. Hot Sauce. Just one of the many items of movie memorabilia available to purchase in the downstairs gift shop leading up and into the restaurant’s dining areas. Set alongside plenty of T-shirts, baseball caps, glasses, American footballs, and the like. All washed down with a cup of the franchise’s own recipe of, slightly overpriced, homemade mango lemonade (£4.50), although some of which were served in novelty, flashing souvenir cups available to take home, which is a pleasant touch, especially for those dining with children.
Followed by speciality desert ‘The Hook, Line and Sinker’ (£8.75), a trio of treats that sample three of the menu’s finest deserts on offer. Featuring a rich Chocolate Chip Cookie doused in chocolate and caramel sauce, a so-so Strawberry Shortcake with Scone-like biscuit and sweet strawberries and an adequate, albeit tainted by an overgenerous sprinkling of cinnamon Bread Pudding. The Americana inspired seafood dishes at Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. are impressive, as is the service, with waiting staff trained to be overly friendly and persistent, which is helpful, of course, although constantly checking upon each table which, sadly, does come across as slightly overwhelming and intruding at times. Deeming Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. as what would, perhaps, be an unsuitable venue for quiet, date-night or business dining ventures, but a great place to visit for large parties, tourists and families. As well as a must-go destination for any London-based movie fanatic.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. can be found at 13 Coventry Street, London, W1D 7AB.