J Sheekey

London’s Best Seafood Restaurants

Just Opened London’s ‘Best of’ series covers a combination of recently opened venues and established London favourites, to make sure you get the full lowdown on where to spend your time and hard-earned cash.

Despite our distinctly non-coastal location, London has some of the most fantastic seafood restaurants in the country. We’re blessed with the daily spoils of Billingsgate Market, providing our diverse population of chefs with beautiful fresh fish.

So, whether you’re a sucker for sushi, after a South Indian fish curry or like things kept plain and simple wrapped up in newspaper then London has the seafood spot for you.

Poppies

12. Poppie’s Fish & Chips

We can’t talk about seafood restaurants without including a good old traditional fish and chip shop and this is one of our favourites. Poppie’s Fish & Chips is an authentic East End chippie serving up exceptional cod, haddock, plaice, lemon sole (even rock, which you never see anymore) fresh from Billingsgate market every morning.

It’s expertly filleted and prepared on site and served up with proper hand-cut Maris Piper chips and more than a small dose of nostalgia. Poppie’s is synonymous with its owner and namesake 74-year-old Pat ‘Pop’ Newland, who started in the fish and chips business in the 1950s, at 11 years old, cutting newspaper to wrap the portions as they were dished out on the Roman Road. That 1950’s vibe is very much present today in each of the Poppie’s branches, with a hefty dose of retro British décor and music to match. Make sure you get a wally and a cream soda for the full experience.

Poppie’s, Spitalfields, Camden and Soho – see website for details


Westerns laundry food

11. Westerns Laundry

This Holloway newcomer is making serious waves on the seafood scene. With daily changing menus of small plates (posted handwritten on Instagram before service), diners at Westerns Laundry can expect to see gems like cod’s roe on toast and soft egg, turbot with warm hollandaise and sea veg or raw bonito with lime, chilli and olive oil.

Things aren’t messed about with terribly, so combinations tend to be either classics done well or take global influence, veering towards the inventive and unexpected. There’s an open kitchen with surrounding seats for those interested in seeing how it’s done, otherwise sit back under some authentic 1950’s strip lighting and enjoy the seasonal, British seaside ride.

Westerns Laundry, 34 Drayton Park, N5 1PB


Trawler Trash

10. Trawler Trash

Trawler Trash is a modern fish restaurant in Islington with a mission to celebrate the ‘trash’ of the sea and do its bit for sustainable and responsible fishing. It’s a crying shame that insanely delicious seafood like coley, grey mullet, sprats and even – unbelievably – crayfish are routinely treated as simply a waste product in favour of the more marketable species but here they are lavished with the attention they deserve and the end plates of thoughtful, seasonal seafood delights and British produce are pleasing.

We’re all over the charred cuttlefish with kohlrabi and coriander dressing starter and frankly need the Trash Pie (served with greens) in our lives right now. There’s also an imaginative weekend brunch featuring goodies like crayfish and bacon cakes with baby spinach and poached egg and smoked mackerel with cauliflower fritters. Yum.

Trawler Trash, 205 Upper Street, N1 1RQ


Sexy Fish

9. Sexy Fish

Sexy Fish, the OTT Asian inspired glamazon from mega-restaurateur Richard Caring (Caprice Holdings – so The Ivy, Le Caprice, Cote and many more) is not one for the shy and retiring. With larger than life artwork from Damian Hirst adorning the onyx walls and the biggest aquarium north of the river, things are never going to be understated at the Berkeley Square celeb spot.

There’s a giant robata grill, a raw bar and a skilled kitchen producing well-executed small plates of shrimp tempura maki, sashimi salad, kimchi marinated octopus skewers and miso glazed Chilean sea bass with cauliflower three ways. Small plates are easily £14 a pop, with the larger dishes averaging out around £30 and that’s disregarding the Wagyu, but it’s worth it for the experience. There’s a  ridiculously fun brunch happening over summer, and those wanting to sample Sexy Fish without going all out on the a la carte menu should investigate as prices are reasonable and dishes look… sexy.

Sexy Fish, Berkeley Square House, Berkeley Square, W1J 6BR


Trishna soft shell crab

8. Trishna

Over in Marylebone, Trishna is doing tremendously good things with seafood – and other ingredients – inspired by India’s coasts. Expect coconut – lots of it – and an actually pretty chilled out, relaxed atmosphere considering this is Michelin territory (they’ve retained their star since 2012). Things aren’t fussy here as décor is pared back, bleached woodwork, nice napkins, that sort of thing. It’s great for summer as there’s a teeny pavement terrace, but inside it still feels really open, airy and light – perfect surroundings for enjoying their soft shell crab with green chilli, white crabmeat and tomato chutney.

We strongly suggest you order the fragrant seafood biryani which is a signature dish and comes carefully layered with black tiger prawns, scallops, sea bream and a pink peppercorn raita on the side. The wine team can’t do enough to recommend their wares (each dish is matched, should you wish) and prices all round are happily approachable too for such accomplished cooking.

Trishna, 15-17 Blandford Street, W1U 3DG


Fresh crab at Prawn on the Lawn

7. Prawn on the Lawn

Originally a diminutive – but fabulous – fishmongers off Highbury Corner with a few dining tables as an afterthought, Prawn on the Lawn has now moved to bigger, better premises a few doors down to operate as a restaurant proper and we are rather pleased. There’s still the signature fish counter, with well-heeled Islingtonites stopping in to buy their fish supper, but now the restaurant is able to serve hot food, and the menu has grown significantly.

Say hello, then, to plates of monkfish and chorizo stew with homemade soda bread, seared tuna with spring onion, chilli, lime, coriander, soy and mirin and all sorts of other freshly sourced goodies. Of course, the menu changes daily to reflect the catch. There’s a bigger, charcoal focused branch in Padstow which we’ve been meaning to get to too.

Prawn on The Lawn, 292-294 St Pauls Road, N1 2LH


Angler

6. Angler

As you’d expect from its perch at the top of the glamorously designed South Place Hotel, Angler is quite a beauty. Wherever you look there’s a feast for the eyes; whether it’s a wall of flowers, the incredible views over the City, the stylish neutral-toned dining room or pretty sun terrace, this place is dressed to impress in an unshowy, effortless way. And we’ve not even started on the food.

All seafood is sourced from British waters and last time we went we were lucky enough to enjoy the private dining room with the view of the kitchen, feasting on sparkling, fresh crab, followed by the richest, most perfect Dover sole with caper butter. The tartare of yellowfin tuna is always excellent too, but really, they won’t put a Michelin-starred foot wrong here, so order it all if you’ve deep enough pockets.

Angler, South Place Hotel, 3 South Place, EC2M 2AF


Langoustines

5. J. Sheekey

Serving luvvies with late-night fish, shellfish and game since the 1890’s, J. Sheekey’s is one of the top seafood haunts in town and is always guaranteed fun. It began life as a small stall in St. Martin’s Court, peddling its fishy wares to theatre-goers and casts. Today, actors and audiences still flock to the modern embodiment that is the rather grand J. Sheekey restaurant and its less formal counterpart, the J. Sheekey Atlantic Bar, which spills out onto the streets letting everyone know how much fun it is – whatever the time of day. The door staff are excellent fun to watch here, dressed up in their finery, greeting the regulars by name.

Splash out on oysters and champagne, or get the famous Sheekey’s fish pie. We love the razor clams with chorizo, broad beans and wild garlic, or the ahi tuna pole with peppered pineapple, avocado and sesame is a sunny nod to modernity to be taken on the terrace. The weekend set menu at £23.75 for two terrific courses is good value.

J. Sheekey, 28-32 St Martin’s Court, WC2N 4AL


Forman's

4. Forman’s

Salmon fans need to head straight over to East London to sample what is some of the best smoked salmon in the country. H. Forman and family have been smoking fish since 1905 as Jewish immigrants from Russia, importing the Baltic stuff before realising they were missing out on the finest Scottish salmon available to them.

Nowadays, the recipe (known as their London Cure) is the same, and the result is nothing short of exquisite. The restaurant is attached to the smokehouse and allows you to sample various forms of the famous salmon – and other seafood – and seasonal British cooking with Olympic and riverside views. We suggest you try the smoked salmon straight up, perhaps with blinis, then double up with a seared fillet for mains.

Forman’s, Stour Road, Fish Island E3 2NT


Scotts

3. Scott’s

Another one from Richard Caring and pals, Scott’s in Mayfair is class personified. Originally an oyster warehouse back in 1851, Scott’s claims to be one of the five oldest restaurants in all of London and has always specialised in seafood and glamour in spades – indeed Ian Fleming is rumoured to have discovered his shaken not stirred martini back in the 50’s.

Now, oysters are served in a variety of guises – spicy sausage, fried with spiced avocado cream and seaweed cracker –  at the dedicated Oyster Bar. There’s a summer terrace festooned with flowers where surely the only thing to eat on a sunny day is the plateau de fruits de mer (at a not-horrendous £38 pp), and inside, plates like shellfish bisque, lobster mayonnaise and fillet of halibut with courgettes, smoked tomatoes and courgette flower are presented against the elegant art deco backdrop. Oh to be rich and come here every day.

Scott’s, 20 Mount Street, W1K 2HE


Wright Bros fruits de mer

2. Wright Bros

Having quit their jobs to start farming oysters back in 2002, the Wright Bros began a mission to make eating oysters in London less of a stuffy affair and get down and dirty with it all. Their first site in Borough market (still probably our favourite one) saw customers enjoying freshly shucked oysters New Orleans style, Spanish (with neighbours’ Brindisa chorizo) and straight up as a shooter and learning to chew (so much better) and recognise different characteristics of different breeds.

Wright Bros supply much of London with their fabulous oysters, and now there are five Wright Bros restaurants where you can continue to enjoy the best oysters in town alongside extensive menus of fresh market fish and seafood. Each branch has a different feel and different menus, so explore and see what tickles your fancy.

Wright Bros, various locations, see website for details (we think the Spitalfields branch is best)

Randall and Aubin

1. Randall & Aubin

Yes, it’s cramped, noisy, busy and all a bit frantic, but Randall & Aubin on Soho’s Brewer Street is all of those things for one reason: it’s just completely terrific. Walking past the open shopfront, you can’t help but be tempted in by the cheesy fruit de mer displays, and by the bustling, buzzy atmosphere inside.

That’s how this place works best; don’t book (you can’t, for dinner anyway), just turn up on a nice day in not too large a group and perch up on a stool for some properly dazzling Anglo/French seafood care of Ed Baines. We’ve loved the lobster Po Boy in the past, and oysters are really a must if you’re a fan, but there’s anything from bouillabaisse to crab and lemon risotto through to tuna carpaccio or just some humble cockles and whelks. You really can’t go wrong.

Randall & Aubin, 14-16 Brewer Street, W1F 0SG