There is nothing that captures that holiday feeling quite so much as sitting on a sunny day, crisp glass of wine in hand and a loaded plate of seafood in front of you. Regardless of your proximity to the sea, it is one of those dining experiences that seems to whisk you away for a moment or two.
Living on an island as we do, London is full of seafood restaurants. Some of them are good, some of them are not so good, and a handful of them are incredible, making the most of the country’s access to some of the sweetest seafood around. Turbot whisked up overnight from Cornwall, langoustines, crawling and sunset-coloured, caught just 12 hours earlier in Scotland, crab, picked and returned to its shell, just a squeeze of lemon and a dollop of mayonnaise to accompany it. Eating seafood in the UK is somewhat of a religious experience, and despite its distance from the sea, the London dining scene seems to personify that. Never have we been more obsessed with the fruits de la mer than now.
While the idea of a seafood restaurant may have once evoked images of silver platters, crisp tablecloths and never ending glasses of champagne in the heart of Mayfair (and while these places still exist, some of them even holding court on this list), the opportunities to eat seafood have dutifully grown in recent years. These days, you can head to places like Prawn on the Lawn for szechuan-spice coated prawns, za’atar-spiced ceviche and scallops roasted with nduja, or to Brat for whole turbot grilled over the fire, just as much as you might want to pop by Bentleys for a grand seafood cocktail and oysters shucked directly in front of you at the bar.
Hackney or Soho, Mayfair or Crouch End, 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 Park Road, N8 8TE
This family run restaurant in Crouch End takes seafood seriously. Bringing the vibe of central London’s gilded establishments north, it sees itself manifested as a true neighbourhood spot. Serving up sustainable, largely British seafood, the restaurant eschews classic pairings for modern dishes – there are no stately seafood cocktails here. Instead, expect squid bolognese with a kick of XO sauce, tuna tartare with ponzu and penang fish collars with mango sambal.
31 Kensington Park Road, W11 2EU
Anything Jackson Boxer touches tends to turn to gold. The renowned chef has a reputation for being connected to some of the city’s best restaurants, turning out interesting and engaging food. His Notting Hill restaurant is no exception. Inspired by the Western Isles, the menu centres British seafood in characteristically beautiful ways – on any given day you might find langoustines with brown butter, oysters with blackberry aguachile or crispy Scottish prawns with a merinda tomato mayonnaise.
London Shell Co
Union Canal, Sheldon Square, W2 6EP
There are seafood restaurants by the water, and then there are seafood restaurants on a boat. Granted, it’s unlikely any of the stuff on your plate will have come from the canal you’re floating on (and, if it did, it might break more than a few health codes), but London Shell Co. still manages to make your seafood feast feel all the more special. Occupying two separate boats – The Prince Regent which cruises as you dine and The Grand Duchess which remains firmly tethered – this is destination dining at its best.
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.
There are three 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.
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
Mayfair institution Scott's is something of an old hand when it comes to seafood – originally set up as an oyster warehouse more than a century and a half ago, it's been serving market-fresh fish and seafood to the well-heeled of Mayfair ever since. Now operated by Richard Caring's Caprice Holdings group and with the kitchen headed up by David McCarthy, it's a go-to destination for long lunches, with the menu consisting of sensitively cooked British fish, knockout oysters, a great wine list and even the odd bit of meat and vegetables for those in your party who "don't really eat fish". Heathens.
55 Jermyn Street, SW1Y 6LX
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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.
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.
Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill
1-15 Swallow Street, W1B 4DG
Bentley's has been serving its fish and chips since 1916, and has been under the control of Michelin star chef Richard Corrigan since 2006. 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 roasted monkfish and prawn curry prove Bentley's is just as capable of doing the business on other cuisines too.
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.
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…
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.
The Sea, The Sea
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 alongside a new, chef's table-style restaurant in Hackney. 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.
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 East London 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.
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.
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.
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 a sexy date night jackpot. 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.
The Seafood Bar
77 Dean Street, W1D 3SH
Fons de Visscher has come a long old way to set up the London outpost of his Amsterdam-based restaurant The Seafood Bar. He worked as a fisherman for 27 before setting up the Netherlands' original, which is renowned for superb seafood and long waiting lines. It was so good, in fact, that it went on to spawn four more sites in Holland, before landing on our shores in the form of a two-floor, 190-cover restaurant on Dean Street designed by Woodfever, who were also behind SUSHISAMBA in Amsterdam. The ethos here is fishmonger first, restaurants second – which means everything you get is of the freshest quality and sourced to the highest sustainability standards. The fruits de mer platters are the name of the game: lobster, North Sea crab, razor clams, langoustines, Dutch shrimps and more.
Kerridge's Fish & Chips at Harrods
Harrods Food Hall, 87-135 Brompton Road, SW1X 7XL
Next time you pop in for a browse at Harrods – because we do that all the time, dahling – you can recover from all that spending by taking a seat at Tom Kerridge's new fish and chips bar in the Harrods Dining Hall. The renowned chef of The Hand & Flowers has joined forces with the iconic London store to serve a menu of classic British dishes with a seafood spin. Think turbot, lobster, Rock oysters, Cornish squid, and Dublin Bay prawns, freshly caught from around the UK and served with a selection of sauces and triple cooked chips.
39 Queen Street, EC4N 4SF
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We do like a cool new opening at Foodism, but we're also big fans of proper establishment restaurants, the kind that have seen food trends come and go and laughed in their face. Sweetings is one such place. It's been in its current location in the City since 1884, and originally set up as a fish and oyster shop in Islington in 1830, and has had celebrated patrons like renowned painter Toulouse-Lautrec – and it's also where St. John's Fergus Henderson proposed to his wife Margot. Today, you can go in and order your fish of choice (within season, natch) and how you'd like it cooked. The fish pie is worth a shout, too.