London is not lacking in world-class seafood restaurants and many are among the city’s longest-established and most revered gastronomic establishments. The city is home to Billingsgate Market, the UK’s largest inland fish market, which covers 13 acres and sells an average of 25,000 tonnes of fish each year, so the city’s top restaurants can easily source fantastic fish. Environmentally conscious diners will be glad to know that most make a point of serving fish that is responsibly caught from sustainable sources.
Traditionally, great quality seafood was the preserve of London’s most exclusive restaurants. However, in recent years, new eateries have found creative and appealing ways to make seafood accessible to all, whether you prefer to enjoy a dozen oysters and lobster thermidor in a restaurant frequented by film stars or simply fancy a casual but delicious fish supper. Even the most discerning diners are guaranteed to fall for London’s seafood restaurants hook, line and sinker.
Located in Covent Garden, close to many of the West End’s famous theatres, J Sheekey is a longstanding and very glamorous stalwart of London’s restaurant scene. The restaurant is named after Josef Sheekey, a seafood stallholder who opened an oyster bar in 1896 at the same location the restaurant still occupies. J Sheekey is loved by actors and audiences alike for its carefully sourced seafood, from dressed crab to potted shrimps and, of course, the famous fish pie. Every dish shows off the fantastic quality of the ingredients. For a more informal meal, head to the J Sheekey Oyster Bar next door to the main restaurant; while the menu here is shorter, it includes fishy delights such as tempura oysters with a wasabi dressing.
J Sheekey, 28-32 St Martin’s Court, London WC2N 4AL, +44 (0)20 7240 2565
Scott’s, claimed to be the second-oldest restaurant in London, was originally an oyster warehouse founded by John Scott in 1851. It moved to its current Mayfair location in 1968 and quickly became one of the city’s most exclusive seafood restaurants. Relaunched in 2006, Scott’s is still legendary in London. Against the backdrop of its elegant art deco interior, diners can enjoy an all-day menu that serves traditional fish and seafood plates alongside some popular meat and game dishes. Start with griddled prawns with spiced yoghurt and cucumber pickle, chargrilled squid with quinoa, spicy sausage and rocket or the simple but utterly perfect griddled sardines with lemon, garlic and olive oil. Mains range from classics such lobster thermidor and fillet of halibut with grilled asparagus to the more exotic shrimp burger with lobster tempura and harissa mayonnaise. Leave room for the renowned desserts, such as the Bakewell pudding with almond ice cream.
Scott’s, 20 Mount Street, London W1K 2HE, +44 (0)20 7495 7309
Rex & Mariano
A relatively recent addition to London’s seafood scene, Rex & Mariano is a popular seafood grill and oyster bar with a Sicilian flavour. The Soho eaterie is a partnership between well-known London fishmonger Rex Goldsmith and Mariano Li Vigni, an Italian with expert knowledge of Sicilian seafood. The restaurant sources its excellent seafood directly from the UK and Sicily and the aim is to make seafood more accessible and allow diners to enjoy the delights of the Sicilian coast in central London. Highlights include fritto misto with old bay seasoning, lemon and aioli, as well as whole dover sole and sea bass tartare served with basil and lemon.
Rex & Mariano, 2 St Anne’s Court, London W1F 0AZ, +44 (0)20 7437 0566
Crab Tavern, launched last summer in the revamped Broadgate Circle, celebrates one particular crustacean, as its name suggests. The menu is a New York-inspired mix of hero crab dishes such as soft-shell crab burger and crab Caesar sub, along other favourites like steak and chips, oyster po’boy and an adventurous shrimp mac ‘n’ cheese toastie. Signature crab-themed house specials include king crab and bonito mash and the West Coast Bucket Boil – a hearty combination of crab claws, mussels, lobster, ratte potatoes, merguez sausage and sweetcorn.
Crab Tavern, Unit 7, Broadgate Circle, London EC2M 2QS, +44 (0)20 7096 2044