Bentley's Proper Shellfish Cocktail

This proper English shellfish cocktail is a classic dish at Bentley's Oyster Bar & Grill, packed with the freshest crab, prawns and lobster tails. It's a particular favourite of owner and chef patron, Richard Corrigan

Serves 4

Preparation time 15 minutes

An undeniably classic London restaurant, Bentley’s Oyster Bar and Grill has been serving up seafood in Mayfair for over one hundred years. Starting out as a family establishment owned by the Bentley family, the restaurant has endured both periods of roaring success, alongside times of turbulence, during its lengthy Mayfair reign. Now in the safe hands of owner and chef patron Richard Corrigan since 2005, Bentley’s has undergone a period of restoration to its former regality, as a place put firmly on the map to enjoy the freshest oysters, seafood and fish from the British and Irish Isles.

One particular dish, the proper English shellfish cocktail, goes down in legend amongst Mayfair folk, restaurant regulars and celebrities. But as with the story of Bentley’s, it’s not always been plain sailing. In fact, it used to be made from frozen fish, existing on the menu as a mere afterthought. But, with the Corrigan takeover came the dish's reinvention – a legend reborn to showcase the best shellfish the British isles has to offer.

“The recipe is a classic and a particular favourite of mine", says Corrigan. "It’s simple and is best enjoyed with some soda bread and Irish butter. The quantities of seafood you use are up to you: just try to get a good mix of everything and always buy it from the fishmongers, or, if you’re lucky enough to live by the sea, direct from the boat. How much sauce you make is really up to you, too. Keep tasting it, and adjust it until it makes you smile. Simon Hopkinson had a nice idea of mixing a little cottage cheese into a cocktail sauce, it lightens it up a bit and makes it less cloying, but you know that no one has ever come up with anything as good."


For the seafood

  • A mixture of seafood: picked white crab meat; Dublin Bay prawns; Atlantic prawns, the pink ones; cooked lobster tails; brown shrimps, peeled
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • A squeeze of lemon juice
  • 2 baby gem lettuce
  • 1 small cucumber, peeled, deseeded and diced

For the cocktail sauce

  • 2 parts mayonnaise
  • 1 part tomato ketchup
  • A splash of brandy
  • A dash of Tabasco sauce
  • A pinch of paprika
  • A squeeze of lemon juice


  1. The quantities of seafood you use are up to you; just try to get a good mix of everything. How much sauce you make is really up to you too. Keep tasting it, and adjust until it makes you smile. 
  2. Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce. Take four old-fashioned cocktail glasses. Season all the seafood with seafood with a little extra virgin olive oil, salt and a drop of lemon juice. 
  3. To assemble, put some lettuce and cucumber at the bottom of the glass, which will give a lovely crunch, then layer up your seafood, put a dollop of sauce on top and let people mix everything up, or keep everything separate as they choose.

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