Bentley’s inhabits the same part of the restaurant universe as Scott’s or Sheeky’s: fundamentally classic in its approach to food and décor, a service culture in which you are addressed as ‘sir’ or ‘madam’ rather than ‘guys’ and a set of prices that will make your mouth go dry.
The restaurant backs on to Mayfair and evidently relies on its plentiful supply of tradesmen who hawk Ferraris, Canalettos or gilt-edged derivatives. In fact, Bentley’s makes me misty-eyed at the memory of lunch in the 90s: arriving by rattling black cab, downing a bloody Mary at the bar with a copy of the Standard while waiting for the rest of the table to arrive, chugging through more than one bottle of Chablis over the meal and, crucially, sticking the whole thing on expenses without a moment’s thought. These days you arrive by tube, debate whether two glasses or a carafe of wine will be sufficient, and if the cost gets near £50 per head then you know an email from the ‘expenses helpdesk’ in Bangalore will be forthcoming. Happily on this occasion I had no such concern as my companion was paying and she signs off her own expenses!
Not that this is to say that Bentley’s food is stuck in the past; far from it. My main course of scallops with clementine, squid, broccoli, noodles and chilli was superb in execution, in the combination of tastes and in presentation. It was modern and classic simultaneously. Equally accomplished was the starter of squid stuffed with chorizo and feta, served with mussels the size of my biceps and a sauce vierge. My companion’s starter of lobster macaroni was great in terms of presentation and taste, and outstanding in the quality of the fresh macaroni.
Service wasn’t quite as polished as in the other sorts of places in this category of restaurant. The staff in the bar downstairs bantered a lot amongst themselves and bickered a little too. The sommelier was rather too keen to refill our glasses between every sip, though she did come up with a spot-on response to our request for a follow-up bottle of white. The staff member who talked us through the specials didn’t quite have good enough English to be clearly understood, and bless him he looked a bit daft in a white jacket that was two sizes too big. The maitre d’ however was a more serious gent, confident and brimming over with enthusiasm; the kind of person who persuades to you to have three more dishes and a great deal more wine that you intended.
On those thumping great prices: it’s £13 for a cocktail, there’s only one starter under a tenner and a main with a side will easily head north of £30. A dessert of ‘petits fours’ for a fiver turned out to be three bonbons each of the type you’d expect to see arrive for free with coffee in other places at this level. So if you live or work in Mayfair, or if your corporate expense account is still stuck in the 90s, or if you are able to treat yourself while being temporarily blind to the bill, Bentley’s can be recommended heartily.