The ‘Grand Dame of Swallow Street’, Bentley’s has been a London institution for over a century, and under the command of Richard Corrigan has only gone from strength to strength
For more than 100 years the foremost and the fashionable have been dropping into Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill. The beloved seafood restaurant on London’s Swallow Street first opened back in 1916, humbly selling oysters and fish and chips to the masses. Much has changed since those days, but Bentley’s values remain to this day; championing local produce, independent suppliers and ethical eating, whilst the staff deliver warm and informal, but polished service.
Since 2005, the restaurant has been owned by Richard Corrigan, who can be credited with ensuring Bentley’s legacy as a haven for fresh oysters, grilled fish and steaks. The menu reads like a lustful paean to old-school fine dining, featuring an array of classic seafood dishes such as the fish pie made with haddock, prawn and salmon; the Cornish dressed crab with mayonnaise; Dover sole meunière with brown butter, lemon and capers; and the royal shellfish platter with lobster, dressed crab, langoustine, oysters, cherry clams, mussels and whelks.
There’s also a varied selection of hand-reared meats, all sourced from the UK and Ireland. Dishes include tartare of Irish Hereford prime beef with oyster cream and crispy shallots; and grilled cutlets of Elwy Valley lamb with harissa, cracked wheat and pomegranate.
The star of the show, though, has and always will be Bentley’s selection of wild and native oysters sourced across the British & Irish isles from Kent to Achill. With up to 1,000 oysters served daily, you need an expert shucker, and there are few compare to the great Helio Garzon, who can often be found slinging shells in the downstairs bar.
Following a recent return visit, Observer food critic Jay Rayner fittingly described Bentley’s as “a classic restaurant – the kind of place I daydreamed about in the depths of lockdown; the one that always makes me think everything will be OK”. It is now as it was 100 years ago, a perfect place to escape the bustle of central London – quietly confident and yet elegantly understated.