Bentley’s Oyster Bar
This one of London’s restaurants first opened in 1916 to serve oysters and Black Velvet (champagne with Guinness), so it seems only fitting that, in 2005, after a decade of decline, it was born again under the enthusiastic stewardship of Irishman Richard Corrigan. The short menu is fishy through and through from the best oysters in town (both rock oysters and sublime Colchester natives in season – September to March) to a stellar fish pie, piscine soups and simple Dover sole. Corrigan is a chef with a robustly hearty approach to eating, and his Irish roots shine through in the homemade and sweetly delicious dark soda bread. There’s a more formal fine-dining restaurant upstairs, but the ground-floor oyster bar, done out with red leather banquettes and oyster-shell lampshades (what else?), is the place to be – and in our view one of the most convivial lunch spots in London. The meeting, greeting and seating is done by Jon Spiteri, a restaurant manager with a natty line in suits and thick-rimmed Joe 90 glasses. If you turn up on spec, you might just get a seat at the bar, but book ahead if you want a table.