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More than a century down the line, Bentley’s still offers “the freshest oysters in London” with all the conviviality you’d expect of a restaurant owned by Richard Corrigan. Downstairs, shuckers get through Carlingford, Jersey and West Mersea bivalves like they’re going out of fashion, with support from celebratory seashore platters, fish and chips and even a sushi salad bowl. Things are noticeably less hectic in the upstairs grill, where punters have time to anticipate and savour sea bass carpaccio with langoustine and lime, ‘royal’ fish pie or grilled sirloin of Irish Hereford beef with salted bone marrow and black pepper onions. Dessert could be a seasonal trifle or a tropical arrangement of pineapple, mango, chilli, ginger and coconut, while the wine list matches these fulsome flavours with plenty by the glass and a global outlook among the bottles. When it comes to the bill, “Corrigan knows how to charge, but can be excused given the overall quality,” says one regular.
For over 100 years now Bentley's Oyster Bar & Grill has been serving up some of the freshest seafood to the well-heeled residents (and day-trippers) of London’s Mayfair district.
Now headed up by Michelin star chef Richard Corrigan, this smart restaurant, as you might expect, has a particular focus on oysters and offers up all kinds of varieties throughout the year – both raw and cooked – with a range of toppings. For those not so enamoured by the thought of raw shellfish, there is also a short selection of steaks for guests to choose from, which showcase meat from across the UK.
Interiors are a classic mix of leather in muted blue tones, warm wood and William Morris-esque wallpaper that create a relaxed yet sophisticated feeling. Pop in for a glass of fizz and a few oysters or settle in for the evening at the grill upstairs, which serves up things like wild Cornish mussels or simply cooked sea bass.
0207 7344 4756
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For any restaurant to have endured in London for more than 100 years, it must be doing something right. Bentley’s track record dates to 1916. A recent visit served as a reminder that the venue is still going strong, having arguably been reinvigorated since Richard Corrigan has been at the helm. Consider a visit here an experience, as much for the people-watching as for the food. Word to the wise: fight your way past the tourists sitting on the heated outdoor patio and avoid the upstairs grill room which can either be populated by rowdy groups or might equally be half-empty and hence curiously lacking in atmosphere. Instead, it is best to stick to what has worked for decades and sit at the oyster bar just to the left of the entrance. Here, the vibe is consistently lively with the clientele comprising everything from seafood connoisseurs to rich sugar-daddies with notably younger other halves – and everything in between. Enthusiastic staff with an air of old school professionalism keep things ticking along nicely. My comrade and I sat at the counter top bar and took it all in, while enjoying some superlative food. What Bentley’s does best is oysters, and the venue claims to shuck over 1,000 on a daily basis. We began with a half dozen of the native variety, spanning West Mersea and Loch Ryan. They were deeply intense, both earthy and salty. We then moved on to seafood starters: octopus for me and eel for my comrade. The dishes were presented beautifully although I did feel that my dish was a slight anti-climax after the previous oyster-high. Somehow it didn’t matter though, since the wine (a lovely Gavi) continued to flow. Onto the mains and while my comrade opted for a sublime piece of Dover Sole, I veered off-piste an went for the grouse. This was not to be perverse (why eat game in a restaurant specialising in seafood?), but more since I adore the bird and it is only available for a brief window each year. That Bentley’s was able to serve it almost to perfection was testament to the skills of the kitchen. The accompanying elements of peach, broccoli and jalapeno were superb foils. None of this comes cheap: oysters are at least £30 for a half dozen, starters could set you back £25 and mains more than £50. Nonetheless, it is definitely worth it. Get someone else to pay and luxuriate in a decadent London experience that has stood the test of time.
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