We should always be grateful that someone, somewhere, decided to try eating an oyster.
And we should also be grateful that someone decided to open a whole restaurant dedicated to them, and all other wondrous bounties of the sea, in Leicester Square. And that person was Josef Sheekey.
What started out as a seafood market stall in the 1890s has now become one of London’s finest seafood restaurants, tucked away in the atmospheric lamplit alleyways behind Charing Cross Road. Outside J Sheekey’s scarlet-painted exterior is the al fresco terrace, busy in summer and winter thanks to the overhead heaters and tartan blankets. Walk inside, and you’ll be swept into its wood-panelled, crisp-napkined and charmingly-waitered embrace. Always busy, but never too loud, it’s like the restaurant equivalent of a lovely warm bath.
J Sheekey’s decor is elegant and unfussy, leaving the spotlight to shine on the excellently sourced and prepared seafood. Lining the walls are headshots of famous luvvie patrons over the years (some of whom can be frequently spotted in the flesh, too, taking advantage of the post-theatre supper menu).
The Atlantic Bar through to the left is a buzzier, more relaxed part of the restaurant, with a marble-topped dining bar for necking freshly-shucked oysters and sipping seaweed martinis. Take a seat in the more formal restaurant area, however, and you’ll be treated to an old-school, top-shelf dining experience – complete with live jazz every Sunday (12-4pm).
Fresh seafood is prepared without pretension or flashy tricks – the quality of the catch speaks for itself, as in the lightly dressed crab and Atlantic prawns (ordered by the half-pint). The mains step up a level, with monkfish tikka masala; pan-fried skate wing with caper butter; shrimp and soft shell crab burger. And if you haven’t gone completely overboard with the seafood, there’s decadent raspberry and chocolate mille-feuille, and chocolate and blood orange fondant to be found on the dessert list.
And, lest we forget the pearl in the oyster – they also do some spectacular cocktails, like the Ticket To Ireland, with whiskey, Fernet Branca, Earl Grey syrup and blackberries; and the Rocksalt Kir, with gin, house-made falernum and muscadet wine.
And remember: there’s just one rule with all this delicious food.
Don’t be shellfish.
NOTE: J Sheekey is open daily. Booking is very much recommended and can be done online HERE.
J Sheekey | 28-35 St. Martin’s Court, WC2N 4AL
Want to try out more restaurants in the area? Take a look at the best restaurants in Covent Garden