Founded in 1896, J Sheekey is justly famous as one of the best places in London for spotting the stars of the West End stage (visit post-theatre for the highest chance of seeing a well-known face). But it’s the supremely cosseting atmosphere combined with classic British fish cookery that keeps celebrities and ordinary folk returning to one of theatreland’s longest-running productions. Above all, this is “a real dining out experience” – “pure tradition with an edge”.
If it swims or comes from the sea, it’s likely to be on the menu. Oysters include natives in season and rocks all year round, shellfish arrives either hot (razor clams with chorizo and broad beans) or cold (lobster mayonnaise) and there’s caviar for high rollers, plus a host of daily ‘market specials’.
Elsewhere, you can eat as traditionally or modishly as you wish: smoked salmon followed by fish pie, or blackened miso mackerel ahead of a monkfish and tiger prawn curry. The best dishes, though, tend to be the simplest: we loved our plate of five fat tiger prawns, doused in garlic butter and smacked with chilli.
Prices aren’t as horrifying as you might expect given the restaurant’s fame and location, though you’ll have to head to Italy to find anything remotely approaching a bargain on the fish-friendly European-led wine list – although it does offer a good by-the-glass selection for those on a tight budget.
Wood-panelled walls hung with monochrome photos of the stars add to the nostalgic vibe, while interiors hidden by mirrored windows make Sheekey’s ideal for a discreet business lunch or supper. Once inside, however, the atmosphere is deliciously gossipy and eavesdropping is an easy game to play – it’s all part of the theatrical fun.