Sharkbait & Swim | Cracking seafood in South East London
You’d probably struggle to find many willing bodies for a game called ‘Sharkbait & Swim’.
As an idea for a restaurant though, it’s a totally different story. Sharkbait & Swim is one of London’s most popular seafood restaurants, found under the brick arches of Deptford Market Yard. The yard – also home to Little Nan’s (in case you wanted to drop by for a cocktail in a teacup afterwards) – is somewhat less talked about in comparison to the city’s other yards (Borough Yards, Vinegar Yard), but is on the rise, and this restaurant is a major reason why.
Chef Steve McClarty is the merry mind behind it all. He got his big break cooking for and impressing residents at various hostels he stayed in, during a difficult personal period for him in his late teens where he floated from place to place without home, before eventually finding his mojo in the kitchen. In the grind leading up to his first restaurant, he had a stint on BBC2 show The Chefs’ Brigade and hustled away in restaurants all across Europe – from Italy to Norway and Paris – and Sharkbait & Swim is McClarty fulfilling his long-held ambition, where he runs the restaurant with his wife Maria (who works as operations manager).
Depending on weather conditions, you can either plop yourself down on one of the courtyard’s outdoor seats or inside, which has a cosy shack-like vibe with high tables, a fishing net draped from above and a blue-tiled open kitchen. The latter is where you’ll spot Steve cooking ‘good food that he loves to eat himself’, which is largely seafood, sustainably sourced from British waters. He keeps the menu short and sweet and divides it into three to five sections: nibbles, oysters (from West Mersea, and if you desire, enhanced by various dressings like cava & caviar and cider-pickled strawberry), sharing shellfish plates, sandwiches (before 4pm), and desserts.
He also seems to have knack of turning whatever arrives fresh from fishermen on his doorstep, at the crack of dawn, into some of the most incredible seafood dishes around – think things like pan-roasted scallops with mango curry cream, breaded whitebait covered in homemade chilli oil, weekly croquette specials (Korean crayfish mac’n’cheese & hot smoked salmon with dulse seaweed bechamel) and a whole crispy sea bream in a Bangkok shallot sauce, served with fries for the mop-up job. And as Steve’s a big fan of meat as well, you’ll always get at least one of those on the menu; say an open-faced flank steak sandwich drizzled generously in a spinach and cashew nut pesto.
Other things that Steve likes? Wine that pairs perfectly and precisely with seafood, and brunch, available on Fridays and Saturdays. You could start with an eggs benny or a fish finger sandwich, orrrr right off the bat, order a round of blood Marys, topped with deep-fried pickles and an oyster.
Don’t be afraid of jumping straight into the deep end here…
NOTE: Sharkbait & Swim is open Tues-Thurs 5-11pm and Fri-Sat, 12-11pm. You can make a reservation by emailing [email protected]
Sharkbait & Swim | Arch 11, 4 Deptford Market Yard, London SE8 4BX
Don’t eat seafood or meat? Then you might like to know that London also does some very good vegetarian restaurants