The top 5 restaurants to eat oysters in London
With National Oyster Day coming up on August 5th, and the oyster season recommencing shortly afterwards, we take a look at the five best restaurants around the capital to sample these sophisticated delicacies of the sea – whether you’re after a cheeky half dozen on a weekday lunchtime or a larger spread with a romantic interest on a Saturday night. Shucks away!
Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill
This Piccadilly institution, which recently celebrated its 100th birthday, has two distinct parts: a more formal and smartly dressed Grill restaurant upstairs, and downstairs the Champagne and Oyster Bar which is a bit lighter and more relaxed like the summery seafood it purveys.
And speaking of summery, there is a great outdoor terrace for these warmer months, which serves as a restful oasis away from the nearby hubbub of Regents Street and Piccadilly Circus.
During this period the restaurant, for the last 10 years under the captaincy of Michelin-starred chef Richard Corrigan, impressively shucks more than 1,000 of the sea creatures a day in front of diners. We’re talking Rockefeller, Vietnamese, Dorset, Menai and Jersey Rocks – most bases covered for the oyster connoisseur.
And with a dedicated sommelier on hand, wine lovers also are guaranteed the best vino or fizz available to match whichever variety they’re sampling.
Address: 11-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG / bentleys.org
J Sheekey Atlantic Bar
In the heart of the West End’s theatreland, J Sheekey is a long established (1896) legend on the dining scene, and in 2008 decided to open the less formal Atlantic Bar sister restaurant next door, painted red on the outside in contrast to the original’s turquoise.
Inside (or outside or on the terrace) you can expect some of the best seafood in the capital, all responsibly caught from sustainable sources in British and European waters. This includes Dover Sole from the Cornish coast, hand dived scallops from the Isle of Mull, and, when the season begins, the finest Loch Ryan and Galway oysters.
And newly launched this summer is an exclusive Lobster Menu, offering a selection of lobster-based dishes which takes away the hassle of extricating the meat from its shell. As with oysters these light dishes – encompassing lobster tempura, souffle and tostadas – are ideal for warmer weather.
Perennially popular with pre- and post-theatre goers, J Sheekey obliges booking well ahead, especially if you want a prime people-watching terrace spot.
Address: 33-35 St Martin’s Court, WC2N 4AL / jsheekeyatlanticbar.co.uk
Located a prawn’s throw from the Southbank’s iconic Royal Festival Hall, in the space beneath Hungerford Bridge, Applebee’s brings a waft of Cornish sea breeze to this riverside spot overlooking the London Eye and Houses of Parliament.
And not only do they serve an array of sustainably sourced seafood – from seabass ceviche to tuna and salmon tartare – there’s also a purpose-built sandpit alongside the bar and dining area for an informal game of petanque: who needs the beach! Also live London buskers on hand to serenade proceedings, and aperol spritz and negronis on tap.
As for the molluscs in question, you won’t be served any better in this part of the capital – try an oyster ‘shot’ from the dedicated champagne and oyster bar, comprising a Bloody Mary, champagne and shallot. Or if you’d prefer something a bit earthier, wash a few down with a can of Cornish craft beer – all (naval) bases covered.
Address: Queen’s Walk, SE1 (pop-up until 20 September) / applebeesfish.com/southbank
Mac & Wild
A wildcard entry to this Top 5, Mac & Wild is known more for its turfier offerings, being a quintessential Scottish game-lovers restaurant purveying fine wild venison alongside steaks of all cuts and sizes.
However this summer it has launched a fantastic oyster and whisky terrace, on the courtyard of its Devonshire Square setting in the City, where you can languidly feast on the best Solway Firth Cumbrae Oysters from the west coast of Scotland, paired with a range of Glenfiddich whiskys, as well as Bloody Mary shots and Hendrick’s summer slushies.
Every Thursday, also, Mac & Wild’s co-founder Andy Waugh hosts oyster-shucking masterclasses from 6pm: six oysters in total during the class, washed down with a dram of 12-year-old Glenfiddich.
And if you fancy some further fun there’s a new ‘Gun Room’ downstairs – a virtual shooting range recreating a Highlands shoot where you can practice your marksmanship against a range of game targets.
Address: 9a Devonshire Square, EC2M 4YN / macandwild.com
Butler’s Wharf Chop House
You won’t find many more iconic London views than at Butler’s Wharf, overlooking the Thames and St Katharine Docks, in the shadow of Tower Bridge. Accordingly, owing to its history and location there’s a decidedly nautical theme to this restaurant, with decorations including ship lights and pendants, but with a tasteful white-tablecloth elegance to it too.
The menu follows suit by complementing its meatier offerings with a selection of seafood classics, from smoked salmon to roasted seabass.
The seasonal cherry on this cake, however, is a special seaside pop-up called The Oyster Shack, sat just inside the restaurant’s entrance. Throughout the summer it keeps things simple by offering only the finest Colchester rock oysters – served on ice with lemon, tabasco and a piquant mignonette – and English sparkling wine in the form of Nyetimber.
Packages start at £15 for six oysters with a glass of Nyetimber Brut, or go large with a dozen and a full bottle for £95. They’re also holding events including Nyetimber and oyster tasting workshops, and a shucking masterclass from Colchester Oyster Fishery.
Address: 36e Shad Thames, SE1 2YE / chophouse-restaurant.co.uk