There's something about the sunshine that brings out the desire to eat foods from the sea — cracking through claw, slurping shell and dipping fingers into lemon-scented bowls. Of course, it helps enormously that seafood goes very well with a glass of crisp white wine, that other summer essential. Here are the best places to get your seafood fix this summer.
Mussel Men wins the prize for the seafood restaurant with the cheekiest personality. Place your order then challenge proprietor Captain Bob to a thumb war or an arm wrestle, depending on your level of ambition. Warning: he's hard to beat.
It’s not just mussels at Mussel Men, they also do lobster, oysters and a seafood alternative to a Sunday roast, which basically involves a hulking great platter of spiky shells and their succulent innards. They're now also open on Fridays from noon when kids can eat free for the whole of June and there’s 50% off food this bank holiday Monday (30 May). We suggest you enjoy it all in their cute decked garden while topping up your tan.
Mussel Men, 584 Kingsland Road, E8 4AH
The Wright Bros. chain is one of our favourites, as they serve seafood of consistently high quality. They also have an oyster happy hour period from 3pm-6pm every day when you can guzzle oysters for £1 each (farmed on their own Cornish Duchy oyster farm), which is the best way to spend an afternoon we can think of right now.
We recently enjoyed a full fruit de mer platter at the Spitalfields branch and have never felt happier. On a non-seafood note, their chocolate mousse is to die for.
Wright Bros., see website for locations (menu varies slightly by location)
This Camberwell-based pop-up restaurant started last year and was so successful it has returned for another summer of seafood. Meals are hosted in a courtyard with such a Mediterranean feel it's hard to remember you're moments away from the chugging Peckham Road.
Tickets are £30 each and sold in multiples of four since this is a meal you'll need to share with your buds. For that money, you'll get oysters, followed by a seafood platter, hot new potatoes, salad, bread and homemade mayonnaise, then strawberries and cream for afters. That's pretty good value (booze is extra, obviously), so suck up the atmosphere, enjoy the live jazz and pretend you're on holiday.
C Food, 29 Peckham Road, SE8 8UA. Buy tickets via their website, runs every Sunday until 28 September
Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill
This is a restaurant of two halves, with a classic, old-school effort upstairs, and a buzzing oyster bar downstairs. It's not cheap on either floor, but it is an experience that every seafood-loving Londoner should have — eyeballing the rich clientele is all part of the fun. That said, the place is also frequented by those nipping in so suck on a few shells and a glass of fizz. They have an extremely high turnover of oysters, which is why they made it onto our list of the best oyster bars in London.
Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill, 1-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG
Hawksmoor Air Street
There's something fishy about the Air Street branch of the Hawksmoor steakhouse group. The menu is packed full of elegantly executed classics like crab or shrimps on toast, Dover sole, turbot, and a killer fish pie. There's steak too, of course, which you can order with half a lobster for surf and turf action, or with a side of lobster macaroni cheese, or both.
Hawksmoor Air Street, 5A Air Street, W1J 0AD
OK so it's not entirely seafood at this Southern American restaurant, but we so love their style. There aren't many places to buy chargrilled oysters around town but these guys are blowtorching them and serving them up Louisiana style with garlic butter and hot sauce. They also do a mean crawfish boudin and pickles plate. Help it all down with a jug of iced tea.
Decatur at Pamela, 428 Kingsland Road, E8 4AA
We love the classic schmoozy charm of this place, set in the heart of Theatreland. The food is a little like very upmarket pub food, so think half pints of prawns, fish pies, lobster thermidor (what do you mean you've never seen that down the King's Head?), and platters of shellfish galore. There’s an oyster bar next door, too.
J Sheekey, 28-34 St. Martin's Court, WC2N 4AL
Prawn on The Lawn
This restaurant started out as 'just' a fishmonger, then expanded with a seated area downstairs. Their signature 'prawn on the lawn' dish is part of their 'fish tapas style' menu and it's a riff on the trendy avocado on toast, only with prawns on top. We love the way you get to walk past the glistening fish counter on the way down to the restaurant, reassuring that everything is perfectly fresh.
Prawn on The Lawn, 220 St Paul's Road, N1 2LL
This is the place to go if you want classic. Wilton's (nope not the music hall) will never change the way that they do things, which is why we love them. It’s been going in its current form since the 1840s and serves dishes that are as traditional in style as its patrons. There's a caviar menu (say no more), and then a sort of run down of Britain's greatest seafood hits: Dover sole, Lincolnshire eel, Scottish salmon, crab, langoustine… it's a truly beautiful thing, is the menu at Wilton's. We could easily lose an afternoon there, thank you very much.
Wilton's, 55 Jermyn Street, SW1Y 6LX
A mariscada is a celebration of spring and seafood, a traditional meal enjoyed by Spanish families living in coastal regions. At Tapas Brindisa Casa in Kensington, Morada Brindisa in Piccadilly and Tramontana Brindisa in Shoreditch, you can enjoy a selection of seafood served with aioli, salad, and bread to clean up the seafood juices left behind on the plate. On our visit we ate a fantastic scallop grilled under breadcrumbs, fat prawns, razor clams, mussels and clams. This is one to experience while you can, as it's only happening until the end of June.
Brindisa’s mariscada menu is £40 pp. Bottomless prosecco is an extra £15 supplement. See website for locations.