Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea | Bubba Gump, Unit 75 Trocadero, 13 Coventry Street, London W1D 7AB
Now don’t get me wrong, I love Forest Gump. It’s one of my favourite films. In fact it’s one of those movies that even when flicking through the TV channels at 1.06am, you simply have to watch. It has everything, an amazing story, great acting and the ability to launch a chain of shrimp restaurants.
Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. has over 30 outposts around the world, mostly in America, some in Asia and a brand new one slap bang in the middle of Touristville (AKA The Trocadero, London). Saff and I have been to one of Bubba Gump‘s restaurants before and we actually really enjoyed it. Then again we were on holiday, on Santa Monica Pier, in glorious sunshine, looking out across the Pacific Ocean! (California dreamin’) and all we had was a drink.
Back to reality and back to a damp cold November evening in London. The decor, uniforms and even the menu is the same as in the US, so I assume the same as all their branches. It’s a real case of identikit design, they don’t bother straying from their original design concept from location to location. The first thing that hits you about ‘Bubba Gump London’ (apart from entering via a gift shop) is its size, it is cavernous! There’s a bar, a couple of dining areas with various table options and row upon row of corrugated tin roof covered beach-shack style booths.
Everything is Forest Gump themed, everything… TVs silently play the film on a loop, repro memorabilia and photos hang on the wall along with fake American metal number plates. The whole feel is a little too mass market, the laminated menus have pictures in (Saff’s guilty pleasure), even the tables are covered in a thick indestructible plastic coating – makes them easy to clean I suppose. The staff seem to come from the too over enthusiastic for T.G.I.Fridays school of table waiting. We couldn’t help but think how great these keen staff would be somewhere else.
So if you want an ‘up top’ every time you get a table side Forest Gump pop-quiz question correct or a very strange Birthday/Hakka performance if it’s your special day, then this could be right up your street. Just so you don’t feel left out… Question 1: What is the name of Forest Gump’s girlfriend? Question 2: What is the number on the back of Forest Gump’s American football shirt? (Answers at the bottom of the post to see if you’ve qualified for a free high-five.)
OK, enough of that and on to the real reason we came. We’d heard numerous opinions and read various tweets and reviews about the quality of the food. But it was Hot Dinners that convinced us to visit, they enjoyed their visit and recommended a couple of dishes on the menu.
We started, as always, with a couple of cocktails. These are mostly themed so we couldn’t pick a known favourite. I was thirsty so asked for something long and refreshing, our waitress suggested a Louisiana Lemonade £7.95. Sorry, but chucking some mushy strawberries and Bacardi Limón Citrus rum into some cloudy lemonade doesn’t make it a cocktail. Saff’s Lt Dan’s Pomegranate Punch £8.45, wasn’t much better – it contained very little pomegranate flavour and even less ‘punch’ despite the light rum and liqueur. On the plus side you get to keep the souvenir glasses that the drinks are served in (we didn’t). The quality of these cocktails were in stark contrast to those at the recently opened Dishoom in Kings Cross, for 45p LESS than the Pomegranate Punch, Dishoom serves up a truly incredible Old Fashioned.
We basically ordered Hot Dinners‘ recommendations. To start we shared the Shrimper’s Net Catch £14.75 – peel ‘n’ Eat Shrimp steamed in beer and served with a choice of spices, either Bubba’s garlic spice or secret recipe Cajun spice. The 2⁄3 pound of shrimp was actually really good even if the Cajun spice was a touch overpowering. We were planning to share the Seafood Hush Pups £7.25, but Saff wasn’t too keen. That was a result for me, I wolfed them down. I loved the soft chopped shrimp, fish and sweetcorn interior and the crunch of deep-fried coating – I just wish the portion was a little more generous.
Our second round of cocktails weren’t any better than the first, quite watery and bland. I tried Mama’s Mango Mojito £8.95, a Bumba Gump twist on the classic – to be honest they should have just left it alone. It was a bit like how Stevie Richie wrecks all the songs he covers on The X Factor. Saff’s Tennessee Iced Tea £8.45, was nothing like a Long Island Iced Tea, maybe Stevie works behind the bar?
Another dish we were tipped to try was the Dumb Luck Coconut Shrimp £14.75. Another good choice, tail on shrimp dipped in a light batter that’s heavily laced with coconut flakes and deep-fried to a golden crunch. Unfortunately the fries to shrimp ratio was all wrong, far too many cardboardy chips and not enough Cajun marmalade for dunking.
I steered away from more deep-fried shrimp and ordered the Jambalaya £15.25. Our waitress pointed out that the Jambalaya wasn’t what was pictured above its description in the wipe-clean menu. How anyone can get this classic Louisiana creole dish confused with four paper cones of fried ‘Forrest’s seafood feast’ is anyone’s guess. The actual bowl of Jambalaya was good, a big helping of blackened chicken, shrimp and Andouille sausage, sautéed with bell pepper, onions, and rice in Bubba’s own spicy sauce. It was a little on the hot side, this was where the ‘Run Forest Run/Stop Forest Stop’ sign came in handy – to order some water to cool my overheated mouth!
We didn’t really have much room left for dessert, luckily they have a best of the best sampler – we wouldn’t be doing our ‘job’ properly if we didn’t have a pudding. The Hook, Line and Sinker £8.45 contains smaller portions of Mama’s warm bread pudding – homemade biscuit topped with fresh strawberries and chocolate chip cookie sundae, the first two of which fell into the ‘just OK’ category. The chocolate chip cookie sundae was much better, we wish we’d just ordered the full-size serving.
Now if you love the film Forest Gump, shrimp and themed restaurants then this is the place for you. It’s fun, lively and so big you are almost guaranteed to get a seat at any time of day. Don’t expect to take someone here for a cheap date, yes some of the portions are big, but our meal would have been over £100 (with tip). Forest famously said “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” Sometimes with restaurants you do.
Question 1: What is the name of Forest Gump’s girlfriend? Jenny
Question 2: What is the number on the back of Forest Gump’s American football shirt? 44
Bubba Gump, Unit 75 Trocadero,
13 Coventry Street, London W1D 7AB
Telephone: 0203 7635 288
Opening hours: 11.30 – 11pm seven days a week
Nearest station: Piccadilly Circus (3 mins walk) or Leicester Square (5 mins walk)
We ate as guests of Bubba Gump, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.