You remember that "seafood diet" joke everyone used to tell around the early '00s? You know the one: it perpetuated everything wrong with that Atkins and Weight Watchers-saturated era where consuming any type of food deemed "unhealthy" by the dietary bigwigs was seen as something to be ashamed of. We can all agree that was a pretty terrible time for everyone, right? Good.
Now, that we've got that off our chest, we'd like to tell you about our new seafood diet. It's completely unrestricted, has zero rules to follow, incorporates no points or "syns" system and involves eating what we like when we like. Which, the majority of the time, happens to be excellent fish from our favourite London seafood restaurants. And lots of it.
A plate of fresh fish and seafood may bring with it fond memories of summer holidays in France spent sitting by "la mer" eating "beaucoup crevettes", but it's also an experience that's inseparable from the British dining experience. No meal is quite as evocative as the rustling of a Daily Express filled with an oily, inky parcel of battered fish and more chips than you can feasibly manage. And, seeing as the UK is an island surrounded by water, we really can't be all that surprised that we're a nation fairly obsessed with all things fish.
Whether you're sampling the fresh catch of the day from a high-end restaurant or caning back a solo oyster as an aphrodisiac pick-me-up before a date, London seafood restaurants are excellent for sampling some of the tastiest fish and seafood going. And some of the best fish and chips, too. No, it's not Royan and the waiters might not have French accents, but the food in London might just be better. Just don't tell Guy Savoy that.
From older than old school favourites like Scott's and Bentley's to new kids on the blocks such as Seabird and The Sea, The Sea, our capital is bursting at the seams with schools of great restaurants that specialise in fish and seafood. Without further ado, here are our picks of the best London seafood restaurants in no particular order, to try ASAP.
23 London seafood restaurants to try
1. The Oystermen
32 Henrietta Street, WC2E 8NA
Friends and fellow seafood aficionados Matt Lovell and Rob Hampton founded The Oystemen together in 2016. What started as a two-man wedding party oyster shucking operation turned into something a lot more tangible after the opening of The Oystermen Seafood Bar & Kitchen in Covent Garden in 2017. Daily fresh oysters are an obvious must whenever you make a visit to the oyster boyz, but we'd also recommend that those with an appetite for the ocean take on the whole undressed Devon brown crab. It is a wholly messy, wholly delicious, and wholly rewarding affair to wheedle out every last morsel of that crustacean's sweet, sweet meat.
2. Wright Brothers
There are five branches of the Wright Brothers' superlative London seafood restaurants, and you'll be hard-pressed to get a bad meal at any of them. Whether you're sampling small plates like St Austell Bay mussel escabeche on toast or a fat-off fruits de mer platter piled high with Morecambe Bay oysters, North Atlantic prawns and a whole cracked Devon cock crab, Wright Brothers hits that seafood sweet spot with all the force of a heavyweight boxer.
3. The Drop Wine Bar
Unit 22-24, Coal Drops Yard, N1C 4DH
There aren't many greater pleasures in life than enjoying a nice glass of wine and slurpy down the briny beauty of a fresh plump oyster. The Drop Wine Bar in Coal Drops Yard understands that pleasure, and provides a safe space for you to do just that. Jersey, Carlingford, and Native oysters are all cosied up on the menu in this intimate arched space, though it's also worth noting the bivalves aren't the only party pleasers in the sea department. A plate of the charred squid with puy lentils, tropea onion, chilli and coriander underlines how soft and delicious a cephalopod can be while stone bass with saffron potatoes, datterini tomatoes, and spinach is a straight-up classic. Come for the oysters, stay for the vibe. And more oysters, obvs.
20 Mount Street, W1K 2HE
Scott's is such an iconic restaurant that it's tempting to tell everyone that you've eaten there even if you haven't in order to save some face among London's top eaters. The West London locale is about as swish as they come and you shouldn't be surprised if you end up witness to at least three tender anniversary dinners when dining there. Not that we're the sort who have romance on our minds when we're at Scott's. No, our headspace is far too focused on the excellent crustacea and gloriously flaky fish. The only sole-mate we require is a big old plate of Dover. Head chef David McCarthy tends to all the seafood that comes into his kitchen with such meticulous care and attention that it's difficult not to get swept up into a passionate love affair with the place. Trust us, once you've been, Scott's isn't somewhere you'll be able to resist returning to.
55 Jermyn Street, SW1Y 6LX
Here's a list of all the different types of oysters they've got on the menu at Wiltons: Loch Ryan Native, Falmouth Natives, Jersey Rock, Rockefeller, Christian Dior, and Kilpatrick. That alone should clue you up about the kind of restaurant that Wiltons is. The Lincolnshire eel is smoked perfection; the sweetness of the eel still making itself felt on your palate months after its swum through your digestive tract. Established all the way back in 1742, Wiltons remains one of the very best London seafood restaurants where you're able to enjoy caviar with buckwheat blinis and sour cream without worrying about running into anyone you know who might accuse you of being A) a snob, or B) a card-carrying Conservative. Because God knows if you run into someone you recognise here, they won't want you to have seen them either. Your penchant for a slice of luxe will remain safe here. my friend: Wiltons is the dirty little secret of London's chicest diners.
6. Randall & Aubin
14-16 Brewer Street, W1F 0SG
Modern British restaurants do have a bit of a tendency of all blurring into one homogenous whir of niceness, don't they? It's not always easy to tell the starched tablecloths and marble counter tops apart from one another. Randall & Aubin is, thankfully, a modern British restaurant with a penchant for seafood that separates it from the pack. Handpicked Devon crab and an absolutely knock-your-socks off bouillabaisse made with mixed West Country fish lead the charge alongside a fruits de mer platter that still keeps us up at night. R&A's primary fishmonger, Chapman's, is committed to sustainable fishing, delivering fish daily from its preparation facility in Kent to ensure the produce has travelled as few miles as possible. No matter which way you cut the cod, it's hard to feel bad after eating a meal at Randall & Aubin.
7. Bentley's Oyster and Bar
1-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG
Bentley's has been serving its fish and chips for over 102 years, and has been under the control of Michelin star chef Richard Corrigan for the past 12 years. So, yeah, needless to say there is a strong selection of seafood at this Piccadilly restaurant, with everything from comforting fish pies to newer-school dishes like Dover sole with sea kale and citrus flying out of the kitchen. It's not all stiff upper lip British takes, either. Dishes such as the Goan spiced mussel and sea bass prove Bentley's is just as capable of doing the business on other cuisines too.
The Savoy, WC2R 0EU
Kaspar's is named after a cat. It's not a real cat though, it's a statue of one. Still with us? Good. It's a tradition at the Savoy Hotel that dinner parties of 13 can request a 14th place for the aforementioned statue to fend off bad luck. Whether you're superstitious or not, what is preordained is that the seafood offering here is as fantastic as you'd expect to get from one of London's finest hotels. The art deco dining room provides an aptly decadent backdrop for some serious seafood, including the fruits de mer platter, the Royal fruits de mer platter (if you're gonna do it, might as well do it in style), caviar, oysters and all sorts of smoked and cured fish.
39 Endell Street, WC2H 9BA
This little Endell Street restaurant is one of the most pleasant London seafood restaurants; a restaurant where delicate dishes of fresh fish and shellfish changes on a daily basis. By keeping an eye on sustainability and using unloved species of fish like huss, dab and ling (no, we didn't make those up), owners Ian Campbell and Will Palmer are trying their damndest to keep the seas and your stomachs full of delicious underwater produce. Parson's Cornish baked fish stew is as comforting as a plate of food can get: a dish that'll remind you of what it's like to love and be loved. There's powerful stuff brewing at Parsons. Get involved sooner rather than later so you don't squander precious months (or years) of being a regular.
3 South Place, EC2M 2AF
Led by executive chef, Gary Foulkes, Angler and its Michelin star have really set the standard for what London seafood restaurants should be aiming for. Not only is the space itself stunning, but the delicate plates of raw Orkney scallop and Cornish mackerel tartare don't exactly falters when it comes to looks, either. Regardless of all of Angler's niceties, it's the fact that the food here drips with flavour and precision that makes it worthy of being on this list. The roast John Dory – dressed in black garlic and served with a side of Jerusalem artichokes and a crispy chicken wing – epitomises exactly how we'd like all Michelin-starred food to be served: with an accompanying chicken wing.
11. Westerns Laundry
34 Drayton Park, N5 1PB
Small plates? Sustainable seafood? An ethically-minded menu that changes daily? Sign us up. Sign us up right goddamn now. Westerns Laundry is one of our favourite restaurants in London and was therefore an absolute shoe-in for this guide to Foodism's favourite London seafood restaurants. The fact that the excellent dishes on offer are constantly swapping in and out is very much the double-edged sword of eating somewhere as sharp and delicious as Westerns Laundry. Want to grab that baked crab fideo pasta that you were fawning over two weeks ago? Too bad. It's gone. Forever. You're inevitably going to be outraged at being denied the best dish you've eaten in ages and might even seriously contemplate never returning to Westerns Laundry ever again. But, then again, that monkfish with spice cauliflower and almonds does also sound pretty good…
12. The Palomar
34 Rupert Street, W1D 6DN
While it's not strictly a seafood-first kind of restaurant, The Palomar – with its menu influenced by the rich cultures of southern Spain, North Africa and the Levant – does some of the best seafood in London. So we've put it on this list. That's how this works. The 'Oceans & Rivers' section of the menu at The Palomar is one for the ages: Tel Aviv mix (seafood, slow cooked onions, Maghreb spices); sea trout tartare (raw sea trout jazzed up with chilli, plum, fennel, and herb oil); octo hummus (chickpea m'sabacha feat. aubergine); and whole josperised sea bass (grilled and served with herb salad, candied lemons, pine nuts). Order any one of those with an ample number of handmade pittas for a meal fit for a king(fish).
13. Quo Vadis
26-29 Dean Street, W1D 3LL
Quo Vadis is the dictionary definition of louche; a proper rakish restaurant that cuts a striking figure on Dean Street. Its seafood dishes are also some of the best in the area, too, which is really saying something when you consider the company Quo Vadis keeps. Griddled fillets of mackerel have their fat content balanced by the acid licks of pickled cucumber, mustard and dill sauce. Hake with a rich mussel and clam broth proves the power of a good soup is in the quality of the shellfish you use for the stock. And, but of course, the smoked eel sandwich does exactly what the Quo Vadis smoked eel sandwich does. Quo Vadis is one of the sexiest London seafood restaurants. Go.
3 Prince Edward Road, E9 5LX
Chef Tom Brown is a handsome man serving handsome plates of seafood, who's managed to turn his restaurant Cornerstone into a London dining destination. Cornerstone is somewhere you could and should travel to eat at no matter what part of London you live. The seasonal produce will obviously come and go but the quality of Cornerstone is here for the long run. When your hero dishes are a pickled oyster and a crab crumpet, you best believe that you're a restaurant that's getting seafood right.
15. Prawn on the Lawn
292-294 St Paul's Road, N1 2LH
You know what's great? Food that everyone can enjoy! Food that isn't pretentious and doesn't need a half-dozen footnotes to understand. Food like the stuff they've got going on at Prawn on the Lawn. Established in 2013 by Rick and Katie Toogood, POTL began life as a seafood bar and fishmonger but has now been extended to include a 35 seater restaurant. We're glad that decision was made because this fuss-free eatery does a whole Padstow brown crab for £22 and, considering how silly London can get with its pricing, that's something that makes us very, very happy indeed.
16. The Sea, The Sea
174 Pavilion Road, SW1X 0AW
With its name like the title of an Iris Murdoch novel, The Sea, The Sea is a chef-led fish shop that operates as a deli by day and a champagne and seafood bar by night. With its name like the holler of a toddler at Brighton pier, The Sea, The Sea specialises in inventive plates like lobster rice sandu and tiger prawn red miso crisp with grated kobe nuts. With its name like where a sailor went to, The Sea, The Sea ages its own fish on-site in a bespoke ageing cabinet. With its name like the best part of a beach holiday abroad, The Sea, The Sea holds a plaice in our hearts.
4 Redchurch Street, E1 6JL
We know that Brat might not self identity as a seafood restaurant, but it is named after a fish – the turbot that also happens to be the Shoreditch eatery's hero dish – so we don't see any problem with including it on this guide to London seafood restaurants. We also don't have any problem in saying that that whole turbot is one of the most theatrical dishes you'll find in the city. Even if you're not up for propping up £75 for one of those grilled beauties, the soused sardines, velvet crab, and hake kokotxas are all briny plates that make Brat one of our favourite spots in the city for a bit of fishing.
18. J Sheekey
28-32 St Martin's Court, WC2N 4AL
J Sheekey has more fish, oysters, shellfish and fruits de mer on its menu than you'd think necessary. But that's J Sheekey for you: a West London staple that prides itself on being as extra as it gets. The post-theatre menu (available from 10pm Monday-Saturday onwards) is our favourite example of J Sheekey's extravagance as it offers you the chance to eat Sheekey's decadent fish pie followed, of course, by a seductive honeycomb and chocolate coupe at a time of the night when you'd most regularly be found getting intimate with a deliciously greasy döner kebab. If you fancy eating somewhere that makes seafood feel special, J Sheekey is the place for you.
19. Bonnie Gull
21A Foley Street, W1W 6DS
We know that the best chippies are those closest to home that serve slightly undercooked chips and crispy fish that's tattooed with the ink from the paper used to coddle it. That's an undisputed fact. But Bonnie Gull is a fancy fish and chips joint that actually serves decent fish and chips. Scottish scallop ceviche and battered haddock join forces for a tour-de-force of sustainable seafood. Yes, it's all a bit more frilly, refined and in Fitzrovia than your local chippy, but Bonnie Gull still takes care that it remains cognizant of the chip shop traditions. So yes, the chips might be triple-cooked, but they're also triple-cooked in beef dripping, delivering that old faithful flavour in a snazzy new package – no ink in sight.
3 Viaduct Gardens, SW11 7AY
Oyster bar. Bakery. Grill. Three of our favourite dining concepts are all rolled into one at Darby's. And all of them are top of their respective classes. Pay a visit Darby's between the hours of 5pm and 7pm, Tuesday through Saturday, and you can get half a dozen oysters and a pint of Guinness for £10. Which is simply outrageous value for money. Grilled day boat fish and homemade seaweed butter makes for an excellent main in the dining area, though we have to admit that our own preferences at Darby's are bit more… lonely. Find us hunched over the native lobster brioche roll at the bar enjoying one of the best solo dining experiences in the city while a podcast blares into our earbuds. Bliss.
21. Bob's Lobster
Unit 71 St Thomas Street, SE1 3QX
Sometimes you just need to be clipped around the ear with comfort food. For those days when you want nothing but to slowly sink yourself into a food-induced stupor, Bob's Lobster should really be your first port of call. Shrimp and grits, lobster mac 'n' cheese, fish finger sandwich, lobster and crayfish roll. Order any of those dishes to remind yourself that seafood doesn't always have to be light and fresh and delicate, sometimes it just needs to be sexed up with something creamy and rammed into your mouth alongside some simple carbohydrates. The people at Bob's Lobster are bonafide experts at making fish all kinds of comforting; and we love them for it.
15 Beeston Place, SW1W 0JW
Under the direction of Nathan Outlaw, this restaurant at The Goring Hotel has quietly slowly but surely been making some waves in the London dining scene. Yes, it's the sort of restaurant that will use the words "ornate" and "exquisite" without a hint of irony, but it's also the sort of restaurant that serves its sea bass under a scattering of devilled shrimp butter – a surefire way to peaking our interests and appetites. Call it a siren call, if you will. Is this restaurant cheap? It's Nathan Outlaw in a high-end hotel, of course it's not cheap. But is it one of our favourite London seafood restaurants? Yes.
40 Blackfriars Road, SE1 8PB
As far as rooftop in London go, The Hoxton's is pretty high up on our list of the most scenic. The space offers a pretty, well, pretty view of London and it hardly hurts that it's now also home to Seabird: a seafood restaurant that's set to be the sexy date night it-spot for at least a good few years. That is, of course, until the next hot, young thing comes along. Love birds should opt for the Basque stew. Designed for two to share, that dish is strewn with a generous amount of clams, mussels, red snapper, and prawns. If hearty stews don't get you randy, you can always rely on Seabird for providing ample aphrodisiac potential with London's longest oyster list. Is there really a need for a restaurant to have 16 different types of oyster? We're not sure, but Seabird is determined as hell to bat for the bivalve. We've gone about romantic twosomes in this entry so far but even if you're dining at the Seabird alone (a highly enjoyable experience in and of itself), it's hard to go wrong with the octopus in a brioche roll. Especially when its slathered in a very undate-friendly sobrasada aioli.