An Amsterdam seafood restaurant and traiteur will move into Soho this August, taking over one of the area’s historic restaurant sites. The snappily named Seafood Bar, which has three restaurants in the Dutch city and another in Utrecht, will take over the former Red Fort restaurant at 77 Dean Street, which closed suddenly in 2018 after 35 years on the premises.
The Red Fort is currently undergoing a full-scale refurbishment ahead of the opening, with planning permission to redevelop the restaurant following the approval of the shopfront, which will give the new restaurant a forest green façade. This restaurant’s design comes from Woodfever — also behind sushi moneypit Sushisamba’s Amsterdam location — but here, in line with the Seafood Bar’s other restaurants, will be low-key, clean, white marble sort of joint. It will take in 190 covers over two floors, with the basement bar — remember those? — apparently gearing up to host some “late night oyster parties” when such things are permitted, with an ice trough for displaying the seafood on offer.
The Seafood Bar is known, unsurprisingly, for towering seafood platters; oysters; and lobsters either boiled from the plancha. It is owned by the de Visscher family, which operated a fishmonger in the small Netherlands city of Helmond for 27 years before relocating to Amsterdam to open a first restaurant in 2012. It has a Michelin Plate, which is a fair bellwether for its apparent vibe: unfussy “speaks for itself” seafood where there is both the potential for quality and nowhere to hide. The family said: “It’s our dream to bring our guests incredible seafood, and we are living that dream. We fell in love with London a long time ago, and we’re very excited we’ve finally arrived.” Strikingly, its Amsterdam restaurants use wind power, though it’s not clear whether that will be possible in the capital.
This planning has been in the offing since 2019, so the Covid-19 pandemic is not so much contributing to the Soho transformation of which it is part. The area’s increasingly identikit nature — in part due to landlord tastemaking, in part due to oppressive property prices, and in part due to the fact that Soho being Soho, persistent footfall can overcome genuine diner volition — is an increasingly catatonic consequence of restaurant risk-aversion from a market pre-Covid-19. And for now, the buyer-slanted property market is not having the same jolt as the economic crisis of 2008, with indie-chains like Harts Group (which took over Quo Vadis in that year) and JKS with reputations and capital to call on benefitting most from high availability over and above individuals.
But where there is sameness, diversion will stand out — whether happily in new openings like the upcoming Rita’s Dining on Lexington Street; or regrettably in the hastened demise of the likes of Vasco and Piero’s, which was serving fresh pasta while Padella’s owners were still in nappies. It remains to be seen what this Amsterdam arrival will bring to the party, but its genuine family-run simplicity has the potential to bring something worth watching.