Bowls restaurant review: Soho gets a fresh new face

Billie Manning

When I first heard about Bowls, the new restaurant in Soho whose concept is that all of their food is, well, served in bowls, I was utterly delighted. I am a strong advocate for the bowl in almost all food situations barring sandwiches. It’s just easier. More often than not, it’s more aesthetically pleasing, too. So to say I was bristling with excitement upon entering the restaurant is no exaggeration.

The restaurant has a casual and cool atmosphere, with staff in grey branded hoodies and a Drake-heavy playlist. We start off with some cocktails, most of which are Caribbean-influenced and mainly rum-based. They are on the whole good, though not life-altering, although there's a standout turn from the ‘Bloody Marley’, a delicious barbecue version of a Bloody Mary, which I would personally vote to replace all Bloody Marys ever.

Image: the ceviche platter

The food menu is comprised of tiny, small and big plates as well as sides and desserts. There's no clear theme on the menu and a lot to choose from, and the chatty, chummy service reflects the fun and casual vibe. Combining this with some slightly brash décor, I expect something much more low-key than the food that arrives. But the essential descriptor for most of Bowls’ food is actually nothing to do with the vessel it’s served in: the main word I use as I work my way through the dishes, other than 'yum', is ‘fresh’. The prawn tostada - our amuse-bouche, if you will - is actually not like prawn toast you might get from the Chinese, as I, ever the plebeian, had initially expected. It’s much better: actual, fresh, juicy prawns with chunky guacamole and tortilla chips.
The ceviche we order arrives on a long wooden platter, each dish a tiny, delicate portion of raw fish with accompaniments. The seabass is inflected with a delightful fusion of fennel and coconut – I am a fan of neither fennel nor coconut and yet still found the dish appealing. The raw scallops, offset with sweet mango, are also charmingly light and – yes, you guessed it – fresh. In fact, they’re so good we decide to go for more scallops, seared this time, which are mouth-watering, flaking off in the mouth.

Image: The Painkiller Slushie cocktail

Fish really is the star of the menu here. Bao buns are bang on trend at the moment and as such are popping up everywhere, and Bowls' salt fish buns don’t disappoint. The buns are just as they should be, soft and sweet, pairing well with the salty filling. Neither fries on offer are your bog-standard potato chips – one is courgette tempura fries and the other cassava with guacamole, and the old Maris Pipers aren’t missed at all: both sides are dippable, hot and moreish. If I had a complaint, it would be that the fried plantain isn’t sliced as thick as it could be.
Oddly enough, the biggest dish on the menu comes right at the end in the form of our dessert, a huge crema catalana that rounds off our evening on a delicious note, and it’s the only thing all night we struggle to finish, despite the fact that we’re sharing. All in all, the food is definitely the star at Bowls, which is exactly what a restaurant should be about, and this restaurant is about good, fresh food – in a bowl!

Bowls, 27 St Anne’s Court, Soho, London W1F 0BN
020 3146 0445

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