We may be famed for our beer-battered, spud-touting national dish, but there’s so much more to the UK’s seafood repertoire than Fish & Chips. From Jersey’s finest oysters to regal Scottish langoustines or the humble Kentish cockle, the capital’s restaurants are embracing the bounteous depths of the British coastline. To help you navigate the choppy waters of London’s restaurant scene, we’ve pulled together our guide to the best seafood restaurants in town.
No round up of the best seafood restaurants in London is complete without a nod to J. Sheekey, who have been shucking oysters for West End revellers for over 120 years. Adored by critics, celebrities and the public in equal measure, Sheekey is always packed to the gills and on the cusp of the best night of someone’s life. Its iconic red canopies might attract tourists in equal measure these days, but the recently revamped oyster bar and summer terrace feature more than enough space to go round, and it hasn’t lost a splash of its authenticity. In fact, a whopping three Taste chefs selected Sheekey as their ultimate seafood restaurant in London; such is its universality.
So why all the fuss? The seafood is, quite simply, outstanding. In the words of Francesco Mazzei, their “consistency and quality throughout the years” is second to none, down to every fresh native oyster or creamy fish pie. Over recent years the menu has diversified beyond the classic Fruits de Mer and market fresh halibut to include the likes of ceviches and tempura, but the quality is unwavering. We’ll leave you with Hus Vedat of Yosma’s words of wisdom: clear your afternoon and settle in for the best boozy lunch of your lifetime.
Where to find it: 28 – 32 St Martin’s Court, WC2N 4AL
From one seafood stalwart to another: Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill. The structure is largely familiar; refined upstairs restaurant complimented by a relaxed ground floor oyster bar and impeccable seafood all round. It’s Mayfair postcode means Bentley’s is a more restrained affair than Sheekey, but rest assured they still know how to throw a truly great oyster party.
With more than 100 years of practice under their belt, and the great Richard Corrigan at the helm, you know the menus are in a safe pair of hands. Oysters are an essential pit stop for any visitor, espoused by Mike Morrans of Senor Ceviche as the “best in town”, and particularly exquisite when trussed up with Vietnamese style dressing or served naked in all their glory. It’s tempting to while away the evening gorging on the little morsels alone, but we implore you to restrain. Instead, leave room for Bentley’s Royal Fish Pie, spilling over with lobster, scallops, prawns and haddock, it is a thing dreams are made of.
Where to find it: 11-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG
You’ve guessed it, more oysters! Wright Brothers may not have the prestige of Sheekey or Bentley, but since its first restaurant opened in Borough in 2005, the Wright Brothers quickly asserted themselves as the go-to restaurant group for affordable, delicious seafood in London.
The brothers in question double up as shellfish merchants and oyster farmers, so there’s no doubt about quality here. Following the winning formula of the freshest oysters imaginable, relaxed bar seating and a cracking selection of wines and fizz by the glass, Wright Bros have expanded into Spitalfields and Soho, so we can be sure we’re never far from our next oyster fix. Looking beyond crustaceans, Wright Bros offer a fresh, seasonal menu of seafaring small plates, of which the octopus carpaccio is an absolute winner. Oh, and did we mention the oyster happy hour?
Where to find it: 11 Stoney Street, Borough Market, SE1 9AD
The cuisine of Peru has been one of the capital’s greatest success stories of recent years, and London has embraced Peruvian food with a zeal not seen since the gourmet burger revolution. Riding the crest of the Peruvian wave and likely one of its catalysts, is Ceviche, a cluster of restaurants by Martin Morales. It’s hard to recall a time when we weren’t familiar with the term ceviche, and we have Martin to credit for introducing this sunshine filled dish to our dreary shores.
Unsurprisingly, ceviche is the main event here. From behind a dedicated bar appear the likes of sea bass, yellow fin tuna, scallops or king prawns, marinated to perfection, doused in lip-smackingly tart leche de tigre and accompanied by the fresh crunch of red onion or sweet potato crisps. Accompanying the delicious seafood are Pisco Sours: Peru’s national cocktail, that after first slurp you wonder how we ever went without before. Creamy, zesty and incredibly moreish, it’s the perfect counterbalance to the outstanding ceviches, barbecue dishes and vibrant salads on offer.
Where to find it: 17 Frith Street, W1D 4RG
Barrafina has been a complete London game changer. First, it showed us sun-starved Brits how to properly showcase Spanish food. Next, it heralded the beginning of a counter-dining revolution across the capital. Then, it made us queue endlessly for it, demonstrating the lengths we’d go to get our hands on that pan con tomate. Finally, it forced Michelin to ditch the white tablecloths and award London’s first Michelin star to a casual dining restaurant.
It’s hard to find an ingredient that Barrafina can’t conjure into a thing of beauty, but their seafood game is truly outstanding. Perched at a counter that serves as the kitchen separator, you’re in prime gawping position as a myriad chefs mill about searing, seasoning and serving in front of you. Dishes are presented with deceptive simplicity; octopus with capers is charred to perfection, whilst the tuna tartare toys with the title of best tartare in town. Of course the meat is brilliant too. Of course you should try it. But skip the seafood and you will live to regret it.
Where to find it: 26 – 27 Dean Street, W1D 3LL