Bucket: Buckets of potential

Shut your eyes hard enough and you could almost believe you’re at the seaside when you dine at Bucket. This, at least, is the idea. Such intention is expressed through the décor, from the white-washed walls and airy sensation of the dining room right through to the nautically themed toilets. Then open your eyes a little wider and there is a Sainsbury’s supermarket opposite, combined with the reality that you are dining in Bayswater (only an estate agent might generously describe this area as Notting Hill). The concept behind Bucket is a laudable one – sustainably sourced fish – even if its realisation is somewhat laboured. Regardless of location, I don’t really want to eat my food out of a metal bucket. Moreover, restaurants with menus that seemingly try and cover as many bases as possible just don’t do it for me. The challenge of how to combine ‘bites’, ‘plates’, ‘buckets’, ‘boards’ and ‘sides’ is not at all clear. Tyranny of choice is never part of my preferred restaurant night out. At least we were greeted with a smile and service throughout was exemplary, even if I sensed a slight tendency for up-selling. My comrade and I sampled at least one item from each segment of the menu and while there were some undoubted highlights, there were also a few disappointments. Begin with the latter and our much-vaunted bucket (we went for whitebait, from a choice of five) did come packed with fish, although I would have preferred more of an emphasis on quality than quantity. There was no faulting the freshness, but the flavour was simply dull and certainly not enhanced by any of the accompanying sauces. Elsewhere, a plate of grilled squid only got me excited insofar as the lemon purée added a lovely flavour dimension. But it was not enough to offset the unpleasantly rubbery nature of the fish. Bucket did score better elsewhere: with the simplicity of a cockle and chorizo appetiser, the texture of a whole grilled sea bass, the combination of a seaweed and cucumber salad and a coup-de-grace dessert. It was somewhat surprising that in a restaurant specialising in fish that the pudding should be so notable, but this is not to criticise the dish itself. A pineapple carpaccio with pink peppercorn, lemon thyme and coconut sorbet was presented beautifully, tasted light (and not too sweet) and was perfect for a summer evening. Overall, work in progress, but there is huge potential here. Pricing is reasonable, the concept is a mostly good one, the wine list shows thought, but the culinary delivery needs some tightening. Locals seem to love the place though (based on how full it was on a Monday night) and a return visit would be in order at some stage.