Hg2 would like to introduce you all to Mr. and Ms. Smith, a couple of fellow hedonists and now regular contributors to the Hg2 Blog. Their identities? A mystery. We’ll be bringing you their restaurant reviews each and every week, starting with famed seafood restaurant Bentley’s on Swallow Street.
Check out Mr & Ms Smith’s blog here
Bentley’s, 11-15 Swallow Street, W1B
+44 20 7734 4756
Ms. Smith: Let me make one thing perfectly clear; Mr. Smith is not a metrosexual. Mr. Smith may be a fine cook, a connoisseur of good wine, a dab hand with DIY and a fantastic fuck but Mr. Smith is not a metrosexual. Mr. Smith has hair and lots of it that has been untouched by a blow dryer. He doesn’t wax, doesn’t own an iPhone and is pretty much techno illiterate. A Savile Row suit is his usual attire, paired with a crisp cotton Jermyn Street shirt and a pair of handcrafted cufflinks.
Mr. Smith is an old fashioned guy who occasionally likes hanging out on a river fly fishing on a friend’s country estate which is exactly where he was last week while I occupied myself in Eastern Europe, babysitting a celeb. It was two weeks since our last date and our reunion was long overdue. There’s only so much virtual communication I can handle before some face-to-face time is required.
Being an old fashioned kind of guy, an old fashioned lunch at an old fashioned restaurant with a modern twist was in order.
“Bentley’s?” said Mr. Smith, knowing my preference for oysters and fine wine.
Occupying a prime position on Swallow Street, Bentley’s opened in 1916 and has been serving well-heeled diners with oysters, fish and seafood ever since. In 2005, Michelin-starred chef Richard Corrigan took it over, to add it to an empire that includes Lindsay House (now moved to Upper Grosvenor Street and re-branded Corrigan’s Mayfair). Lindsay House was the site of my very last office party; that particular shindig had cost me £1,500 for a table of ten but from what I can remember it was one of the best meals I have ever tasted. Understandably, I was looking forward to a meal with Mr. Smith at Bentley’s, especially as this time Mr. Smith had offered to pick up the tab.
Our table was booked for 12.45, the new 1pm in a town that turns lunch tables almost as fast as the turnstiles at Arsenal Stadium. Arriving before Mr. Smith at 12.40, I was shown to a table in between a dowager dressed in head to toe Biba circ 1974 complete with floppy black felt hat and a couple looking like they meant business. I was wearing my usual 10 denier black stockings, a pencil skirt and tight black sweater, finished off with a pair of heels that were comfortable enough to take me from Piccadilly to Swallow Street but not much farther. With not more than 10” of space on either side of our appointed table and with quite a lot to talk about with Mr. Smith, I pointed to a lone spot for two facing the pane glass window alongside the bar.
“Do you think we might have that one?”
A quick check with the reception confirmed that it was ours and I sat down to await Mr. Smith’s arrival. He arrived punctually at 12.45 and by 1pm we were tucking into a very average Italian Viognier (a failed experiment in living on the edge) and a plate of Jersey and Maldon oysters, having dismissed the half dozen lunchtime specials recited in broken English by our Eastern European waitress in favour of a Bentley’s classic. I’m not against Slavic service but it has to be said that it was far easier to work out the daily specials from looking at the blackboard positioned at the end of the long bar than what was being read out from the waitress’s notepad. It seems almost de rigueur these days in London’s finest restaurants to employee staff for which English is a third language.
The Maldons were more tender than the Jerseys, it had to be said, the latter being a little tough for Mr. Smith’s sensitive palate. ‘Must be something to do with the a stronger current,’ was Mr. Smith’s verdict. Nevertheless we fought after the last one, like two children fighting over the last blue Smartie. Being the gentleman he is, Mr. Smith let me finish them off, while calling over the waitress to take our orders for the main course.
“See that one over there,” he said, pointing to a waitress with short dyed blonde hair pulled back into a tight ponytail, the dark roots on the top of her head more prominent then the blonde below. “She’s my favourite.” Soon enough, she was beside our table, topping up our glasses. The two chatted like old friends, which I suppose they almost were as Bentley’s was one of Mr. Smith’s regular haunts.
Mr. Smith: Bentley’s is my kind of place especially when it involves the radiant glow of Ms. Smith sitting across the table from me. I think Jay Rayner hit the nail of the head with the following quote: “A place like Bentley’s makes so much sense. It first opened in 1916 and became the sort of establishment joint where gentlemen of a certain age liked to eat British standards while dreaming about a spanking from nanny”.
In Richard Corrigan’s experienced hands the seafood crackles with freshness. I believe the oysters are the best in town. They are always a good mix of Natives and Rocks with the occasional ‘guest’ oyster thrown in for good measure. Non-seafood people do not need to worry – Corrigan’s Irish connections provide spectacular beef for the standard issue Mr. Smith test: How is the Rib-eye? The answer at Bentley’s is always good.
The Oyster Bar is always the place to sit provided you can cope with the proximity of your fellow guests. As usual the sauciness of our lunch conversation was raising more than a few eyebrows of our fellow guests. The wine list is deep and varied hence the misjudged Italian Viognier. We quickly polished that off and replaced it with the rock steady ‘value oriented white burgundy’ Chateau Fuisse; lovely and deep on the palette but still maintaining the finesse that the New World producers can only dream of producing.
Bentley’s presses all of the right buttons for Mr. Smith, which when accompanied by Ms. Smith means there can be no better lunchtime dining experience in London. An excellent meal that provided the fuel for a very steamy afternoon in the boudoir.