What: Made up of the oyster bar downstairs and the grill upstairs, Bentley’s is arguably one of London’s most loved seafood restaurants, having sold fish and chips to the London hordes for over a century. For the past decade, it’s been under the eye of Richard Corrigan, chef patron of Corrigan Restaurant. This summer it’s all been about Dickie’s Bar – Corrigan’s new bar at Corrigan’s Mayfair, but we decided to revisit an old classic.
New? Certainly not, Bentley’s is one of the stalwarts of London’s restaurant scene having been open since 1916.
Where? 11-15 Swallow Street, Piccadilly, W1B 4DG, www.bentleys.org
On the Menu: Naturally there are plenty of oysters, caviar and a raw bar where dishes include scallops ceviche and sesame sea bass. To start you’ll find the likes of crab ravioli, dressed crab and Dover sole goujons and native shellfish. Main courses are comforting classics, think, fish pie, fish and chips and smoked haddock.
The Look: We were eating downstairs in the oyster bar, and pulled up a burnt red leather chair at the marble topped bar so that we could watch the guys at work shucking oysters. If you can, get a seat at the bar, there’s something rather mesmerising watching them at work and they’re also fantastically charming. If you’re not at the bar then there are tables for two behind, dark wooden panelling, deep red banquettes and candle light in playful clam shaped holders, give it a more intimate, romantic air. If the bar is for drinking Champagne, then tables are for whiling the hours away over a bottle of red wine.
What We Ate: We started with a dozen oysters, both rock and native, they’re served with shallot vinegar and Tabasco, but really all you need is a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of pepper to let their flavours come through.
There’s a beautifully, decadent, golden oyster croque monsieur which is not for the faint hearted. A few leaves of rocket cut through the richness, but this is one of those dishes that you just can’t hold back on, most likely wildly unhealthy but it’s one that has to be tried. We also tried the special, a meaty chunk of octopus served with perfectly cooked pork belly and sweet, fresh melon. Fans of kedgeree need the butter poached smoked haddock, flaky chunks of fish served with sorrel, fragrant Indian spices, rice and egg – a essentially deconstructed kedgeree.
To finish there is a rich bread and butter pudding with a burnt sugar topping and a light Irish apple tart served with a good dollop of ice cream – puddings here are comfortingly wholesome – there’s a little finesse but it’s more about the heartiness.
What We Drank: The wine list is extensive and there is also a succinct cocktail list which needs a little more imagination, but then again, Bentley’s isn’t a cocktail bar. There is however plenty of Champagne to accompany your oysters and we went for the Champagne Paul Déthune Ambonnay Grand Cru Brut N.V
Go With: This has date night written all over it – sit at the bar, order a dozen oysters and a couple of glasses of Champagne and you’re on to a winner.
Final Word: London’s restaurant scene takes no prisoners and you don’t get to a century unless you’re doing something particularly right, and Bentley’s has it. The charming, polished service, the relaxed atmosphere that still feels as if you’re going somewhere special and a je ne sais quoi about it.
Bentley’s: 1-15 Swallow Street, Piccadilly, W1B 4DG,