J Sheekey: a glamorous taste of old London

It pays to have a few perennial favourite restaurants up your sleeve as default options and Sheekey’s is most definitely one of those.

It is located seconds from Leicester Square tube station in St Martin’s Court between Charing Cross Road and St Martin’s Lane, so handy for the West End and easily reached directly from High Barnet. As well as serving first rate food in a timeless and atmospheric environment, it’s ideal for a spontaneous quick bite pre or post theatre or for a special occasion. It always has a welcoming buzz in the four inter-connecting rooms and it’s good for people watching, the later the better (last orders are at midnight).

Josef Sheekey opened the restaurant in the 1890s so it is literally a rare taste of old London. Stratospheric rents have seen off a lot of historic restaurants and cafés and a rash of chains is taking over, wiping out local character. Fortunately for Sheekey’s, the owners, Caprice Holdings, have taken a hands off approach and many original fittings and decorative details remain unchanged. (In contrast, they have refurbished their flagship restaurant, The Ivy, and continue to roll it out as a brand.) However, the Oyster Bar has been renamed the J Sheekey Atlantic Bar (recalling the Atlantic Bar and Grill – now another High Living favourite, Zédel) and the terrace has been refurbished and painted aquamarine.

There’s a lot to love about Sheekey’s, but if it was purely based on the food, it would still be first rate. Fish and seafood is their speciality (with the menu is priced accordingly), but there are good value vegetarian options (eg wild mushroom risotto, £14.50) and meat dishes on request. On our last visit we had potted shrimps (rich and buttery but with a spicy kick of mace, £13.75), tangy gravlax (£12.75) and classic dishes, fish pie (£17.50) and haddock, chips and mushy peas (£18.75). We were quite full, so to finish we shared their passion fruit and salted caramel truffles (£4.50) and sipped some Monbazillac dessert wine (£7.50). It was our wedding anniversary and, as we left, so many members of staff made a point of speaking to us. It was charming.

On others visits I’ve enjoyed pristine oysters, expertly cooked fish on the bone and I particularly like their shrimp and scallop burger served on a bun with a little jug of spicy mayonnaise (£17.75). As the menu is fish dominated, starters are generally in the teens, a lot of the mains are up in the £20s and sides are £5–6. Wine is from £7 per glass (125ml) with a well edited list kicking off at £30, strong on smart whites and elegant, fish-friendly reds. There are plenty of staff, so if you need to be in and out quickly before curtain-up, you can relax and trust them to get on with it. They also do a weekend set lunch menu (two courses for £23.75 or three for £28.75).

It’s just the place for a festive treat. A trip to see the Christmas lights followed by supper at Sheekey’s? Santa baby, please…

Image below courtesy of J Sheekey.

28-32 St Martin’s Court, London WC2N 4AL
020 7240 2565

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