"Indulgent and delicious"Review Rating: Reviewed by Leila
Having opened in 1916, this oyster eatery quickly gained a fine reputation thanks to catering to the local theatre-goers and well-healed socialites. The formula of eating one of the most indulgent of foods in casual surroundings survived WWII and successive recessions; today, it is as popular as ever as this bustling Oyster Bar demonstrates. Situated in one of the dainty courtyards off Regent Street, the more formal Grill restaurant is upstairs, but all the fun seems to be downstairs, where diners chat animatedly by the marble-topped bar. It’s dimly lit and French bistro chic, somewhere you’d want to take someone on an informal, nonetheless impressive outing.
At first glance, the prices on the menu are less extortionate than one would expect, with main dishes averaging around £20. Similarly with the wines, a light bodied 2009 Gavi di Gavi Tacchini Piemonte is £32. Enjoying oysters without Champagne is like stepping outside to find you’ve left your mobile phone at home, they feel a little lonely and out of sorts without the accompanying bubbles; Champagne starts at £12.50 a glass for the Phillipponnat Royale Reserve Brut. Along with this we sample a platter of Welsh, Whitstable and Jersey oysters while trying to be clever at divining the difference between them – if the lemon and shallot vinaigrette is left to one side it is possible to perceive a slight sweetness to the Welsh oysters and the more mineral properties of the Jersey variety.
A dish of gingery tuna sashimi is very pleasant but it can’t avoid paling in comparison to the octopus and feta salad, which can only be described as an orgasmic explosion of flavour. Sweet roasted red peppers, briny capers and black olives, chunks of salty feta cheese, peppery rocket leaf and meaty pieces of octopus really shouldn’t work this well together on one plate, but they do, and to what effect.
Mains are equally delightful, the delicate sweetness of skate is paired with peppery puy lentils and a vinegary, mushy sauce; rich almonds are a surprisingly good pairing for the slightly sour, salt cod which comes with peppers and potatoes.
A very dark chocolate mousse with a dollop of cream that offsets its bitterness is a suitably exuberant dessert to finish off an excellent meal.
Leila reviewed Bentley's Oyster Bar & Grill on Sun 20 Feb 2011