Neil Gill’s self-styled Sunderland chip shop meets Japanese izakaya, Gilly’s Fry Bar in Finsbury Park, will close today, having only been open since September last year. The chef did however confirm that although he was calling it a day at the “test site,” he would be opening at a new location in the “West End” before the end of the year. He would not say where or when exactly it would be relaunching.
Eater understands that the restaurant, despite catching the attention of the food media at launch, had suffered in terms of footfall due to building works at Finsbury Park station. The entrance/exit to the station outside which Gilly’s was located had been blocked off, thus diverting commuters and limiting the passing trade.
Gill said yesterday that when he launched the small restaurant “on the flimsiest of shoestrings, it was more in hope than expectation.” He said: “It had long been a passion project of mine, the idea of combining my love of Japanese tempura technique with the old-school Sunderland chippies of my youth.”
With that, the menu included raw fish with soy dipping sauce, pickled onion martinis, chip butties, curry sauce and deep-fried sausages. In the same way that Black Axe Mangal is often so exciting in its own, unique genre-bending way, Gilly’s was something different — a restaurant without any real framework for comparison.
Gill added: “Like so many plays coming out of the Park Theatre next door — Gilly’s will be TRANSFERRING TO THE WEST END! The shutters will be coming down on our little Finsbury Park test site, and we will emerge as a fully fledged batter butterfly later this year.”
In a November review of the restaurant, the then-ES Magazine critic Grace Dent, described Gilly’s Fry Bar as a “delicious hinterland” where “glorious” battered sweetcorn scraps, “excellent” [British] halloumi with honey, “beautifully done,” “earnestly sourced” seafood and “unforgettable” deep-fried Celebrations all coexist in near-perfect harmony. It is, undeniably, “a bit strange” — “unique and a little befuddling” but “one of the oddest but nicest” openings of the year.
Gill told Hot Dinners that the menu would remain largely the same, but that a number of rotating specials would be instated on a permanent basis at lunchtimes. Dishes like ‘Cod crack,’ fish cakes and buttermilk chicken wings.
“I really want to do deep-fried mini pizzas, think more the pizza fritta of Naples than the deep-fried pizzas of Glasgow! I’m also working on a Japanese milk bread fillet-o-fish,” he said.
It is expected that the restaurant will open in Soho, but Eater awaits further comment and confirmation from Gill.