BENTLEY'S OYSTER BAR: MUSCLES THEN MUSSELS
Given that at dawn this morning my trainer was putting me through very hell as we celebrated our tenth anniversary of training together with a ludicrously hard session of weight lifting, it seems only fitting that I had mussels for my lunch.
Before that, I sauntered with my fetching woolly hat at the most jaunty of angles, down to Borough to buy some snacks for Sunday lunch and came home laden down with pork pies, assorted cheeses from NYD and some black pudding ( all food groups covered there then ) and then to The West End to buy some more bits and pieces at Selfridges.
By Midday, I found myself at Fortnum and Masons and within striking distance of Swallow St and Bentley's Oyster Bar. Recently revamped by Richard Corrigan, chef at the Lindsay House, the restaurant has been getting very decent crit from a wide range of people including HP who raved about the quality of the oysters he tried there recently.
Unfortunately, God has denied me the joy of oysters since I had a bad one at the Frankfurt Book Fair about eight or so years ago. I did try again at J Sheekey a few years ago and, lets just say they are still trying to remove the stain from in front of our building.
Still, they had lots of other things on the menu and a decent list of wines, so I thought it was worth a try.
Arriving just as they opened, I settled myself at a seat in the welcoming bar area. The Italian barman/shucker was initially very friendly, but seemed to turn off like a light switch once I told him I could not eat oysters and turned most of his attention to a couple ordering two dozen natives. I wanted to try a half dozen of the cherry clams but they were off, so I went instead for a dish from the specials, Mussels in a mariniere sauce. With this, I ordered a glass of Prosecco which was not chilled enough. Other specials included Baked Hake and Whole Grilled Lobster with chips ( for £29)
The barman brought me a bowl of bread making a big point of saying that it was baked in house by the pastry chef. I am not sure I would be too proud of what was offered. Only the soda bread was any good. It was,actually,very good. The rest was could be described as nondescript if I was being kind. I am not kind, it tasted like cardboard
The mussels, when they arrived, were nicely presented served in a copper pan and were plump and meaty. There were also plenty of them. A good portion for £8.95. The sauce, however, was oversalted. I can still taste it now.
I had polished off the Prosecco and wanted another drink. They make another big play on the menu about how good sherry is with seafood and they have a small but well selected list. I ordered a glass of Manzanilla which was also served too warm. If you are going to make something part of your schtick to the point that you drone on about it on the menu, at least get the basics right.
The bill for the mussels and the two glasses was £20 including service which was perfunctory at best.
As I said, Hermano Primero enjoyed this place. I can understand why. The oysters I saw being opened and served looked very good indeed and, like I said,they do have lots of other things on the menu that sounded inviting like Fish Pie, Dover Sole and Fish & Chips.
But, on this showing, I was positively less than whelmed.