Saturday, October 11, 2014

Bubba Gump Shrimp, London

I've watched Forrest Gump so many times - well, let me be more specific - I've watched the first hour of Forrest Gump about 20 times in my life. Why, you ask? For some reason this was the video tape to put on if we finished a test early in my school days. Tangentially related to history, a heart-warming flick with an anti-bullying message, I guess it actually makes sense that they chose it...After the 10th viewing, however, I was ready to just put my head down on my desk & nap.

It's been years now since I last saw it, so I'm a bit rusty on my Gump. You could quickly re-learn here, however, because the entire restaurant is just full of Gump related ephemera...and it's playing on all the TVs. It's incredibly weird on it's surface - why in the name of God is there an international chain restaurant based off of a one-off film that, while very successful, isn't much of a cultural touchstone outside of the phrase 'Run Forrest, Run!'

Even that...I mean, I'm kind of old, but I've got to imagine in about 10 years people in their 20s aren't going to be saying that to each other...right? So Bubba Gump Shrimp will remain, and the references will all be lost. Seriously though, Forrest Gump never...opened a restaurant in the movie, right? Now granted, I've mostly only memorized the first hour, so I thought what happened was that they bought a shrimping boat?

Listen though, I'll buy any gimmick if it means you load my plate up with coconut shrimp. It's surprising to hear European waiters ask me what the name of Forrest's best friend was, and even more surprising when every single person in uniform that we passed on the way to-and-fro the table said "Hello, how are you? Are you hungry?" It's really endearing, I know the exact style of service they're going for but it's so foreign for European waiters that they don't have the 'natural' scripted feel yet. I'm sure it'll get better, or it will just slowly devolve into traditional UK service - which I'm fine with, actually.

So we ate lots of shrimp that night - and drank very fun novelty drinks that were well-balanced & tasty if you like fruity boozy ones! You also get to take home some of the glasses but you may have to ask as the waiters seemed slightly confused about which ones left the restaurant and which ones stayed behind. Just ask if you think your drink came with the glass, because while ours did say that on the menu the waitress seemed pretty certain it didn't. Again, not quite hitting the mark on the machine that is American chain restaurant service, but they'll get there.

Onto the food! We ordered the shrimp macaroni & cheese as an appetizer to split - it's definitely a big enough portion for two, and could conceivably be a decent main for one. Very cheesy with breadcrumbs on top, it's creamy, chewy, and crunchy all in one. There were also quite a few li'l shrimps in there, enough that I didn't feel like it was being at all cheap.

I ordered, of course, the coconut shrimp. Bubba Gump is like, the only place in London that serves coconut shrimp so for that alone they will have my loyalty forever. Big shapely shrimps, with a coconut infused batter and a mysterious sweet & sour sauce known only as 'Cajun Marmalade', It's delicious, and if you've never had coconut shrimp here's your chance...and it's good. It's just as good as it is in Japan & the USA, the batter perhaps a bit 'looser' off the shrimp, but I think that had more to do with this being an opening weekend than any sort of recipe change. If you go in a couple weeks, at a less busy time, I bet the shrimp is just as it is in America. Which is to say, super delicious. Obviously the portion sizes are smaller than in the US (or may I add, in the Japanese locations - also huge portions there) and it's more expensive...but hey, get out of the UK if you want to eat gigantic plates full of meat & cheese for cheap.

As far as drinks go, I got the Louisiana Lemonade with strawberries, and it was nicely tart & sweet with basically no rummy taste. It did have a boozy feeling, however - a great choice for people who want to get a little buzz on without tasting alcohol...AKA, me.

 My husband got the peach iced tea drink, which was served in a very weird Mason jar with a stem. It tasted stronger, but was still quite nice with a delicate peach taste indeed. If you want a stronger or more classy drink, you might just want to skip going to a novelty shrimp restaurant imported from the USA, haha.

The desserts left something to be desired, I think. They didn't bring over the Cookie Sundae from what I could see, which is a big half-baked 'skillet cookie' with ice cream & whipped cream on it. Really nice, I'm surprised it isn't here. Hell, maybe it's illegal to serve that much saturated fat at once in the UK.

 I also get the feeling that the strawberry shortcake on offer wouldn't be in the traditional Southern style of a (US) biscuit base, and would instead be the bastardized Yankee version with angel food cake, or more likely here, sponge cake. Either way, pah...make it a biscuit or get outta town. We didn't bother getting any of them, but we were also very full - odds are good the desserts are an after-thought because so few people will end up ordering them as they are definitely big portions, especially for the UK.

Don't go if you want a classy night out in London, or if you are really snarky & cynical about servers who pretend to/do care about their jobs, or if you maybe have a great fear of restaurants with lots of Americana bric-a-brac on the walls. If you're happy to just eat some tasty shrimp & enjoy pleasant service this would be a good choice. Just don't compare the menu prices to the US locations, and you'll have a fun time.

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