It’s hard to believe that so much time has passed since Richard Corrigan first overhauled this grande dame of the capital’s restaurant scene (established 1916). The interior remains as polished as ever, with art deco windows, the original marble oyster bar and wood panelling. Weeknights in the more formal first-floor Grill restaurant have a restrained business-dinner vibe, but the downstairs oyster bar is pleasingly laid-back.
Theatrics at the gleaming marble counter (part staff speedily shucking, part competitive knocking ‘em back) provide entertaining distraction as you decide between menu classics and imaginative daily specials. Our oysters (Dorset rock, Mersea natives) were exquisitely fresh, while mains of perfectly grilled langoustines, and scallops served with broad beans, crispy pork, parma ham, toasted cashew nuts and blood orange were faultless in flavour and presentation.
Despite its proximity to touristy Piccadilly, Bentley’s retains a distinctly London buzz. We sat among gregarious City boys, Notting Hill couples on third dates and Regent Street shoppers – the bar’s tightly packed tables mean eavesdropping is inevitable.
Even comically haphazard service – after the third omission our smiling waiter took to periodically appearing at our table to check if he’d forgotten anything – failed to dampen our experience.