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Tuesday 26 October 2010

London Restaurant Reviews - Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill & Arbutus Review by Competition Winner John T

London Restaurant Festival and American Express 10-10-10

The London Restaurant Festival, which took place in October 2010, was a celebration of eating out, and designed to demonstrate the highly diverse range of restaurants in the capital, from high-profile Michelin-starred restaurants to neighbourhood bistros.

American Express 10-10-10 was a culinary event created by the partnership between the London Restaurant Festival and American Express, which took place on 10 October 2010. Ten celebrated chefs from outside London joined forces with ten of their equally renowned London peers to offer a unique collaborative menu for Sunday lunch.

Dr G and I were fortunate enough to visit Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill in Piccadilly for American Express 10-10-10. Here, chefs Richard Corrigan (Dublin born, Michelin starred since 98) and Sat Bains (who runs Sat Bains Restaurant with Rooms the only Michelin starred restaurant in Nottingham) collaborated to produce a diverse 7 course Sunday lunch menu with matching wines.

We started with a "selection of canapes" served with a glass of chilled Philipponnat Champagne Royale Reserve. These were simple but refined and the champagne a welcome aperitif.

The "Oyster Soup" served with potato mayonnaise was a vividly attractive pea green colour with a delicate foam and a fresh oyster flavour. The accompanying 09 Picpoul de Pinet from Languedoc was outstandingly good with crisp acidity and minerality.

Our next course was "Scottish Langoustines" served on a bed of lightly curried chick peas and topped with crispy chicken skin. The combination of unusual flavours and textures worked well with the 09 Gruner Veltliner Satzen it was served with. This was our favourite wine, with an intensely aromatic nose, concentrated green fruit and spice on the palate, making it the perfect match to the curried dish.

After this we had "Cured salmon" served with mussel broth, parsley, dill and sea vegetables. This was visually the most striking dish but the broth lacked concentration and was overshadowed by the stronger flavours of the previous dish. A classic 09 Chablis Billaud-Simon accompanied.

The main course was "Poached wild turbot with oxtail jus" served with sautéed ceps and a raviolo filled with oxtail meat. We enjoyed this upmarket surf and turf, and felt that the delicate fish counterbalanced the rich oxtail meat, and the 08 Pinot Noir Delta Vineyards it was matched with.

For dessert we had "Chocolate mousse" with cumin caramel and coriander yoghurt. This was a surprisingly good dessert with the spices bringing out the rich chocolate flavours of the mousse. It was served with a deliciously concentrated, rich, sweet 09 Passito di Pantelleria from Sicily. This wine is made from grapes that have been sun dried to concentrate the juice in an ancient process also used to create Tuscan Vin Santo.

To finish off our glass of Passito, we were served "Banyuls soaked crozier blue" and Bentley's oatcakes.

Cost: £125 per person including 7 courses and matching wines.

Likes: excellent wine choices by the sommelier Johannsen, fine cooking particularly demonstrated by the starters, elegant restaurant, attentive service.

Dislikes: at this price level I would have expected the earth to move! It didn't.

Verdict: nice food, great wines, stellar prices. One of the best food and wine pairing meals I can recall. Recommended for special occasions, business lunches and discounted offers.

The London Foodie was a guest of American Express

On the same day, John T (the lucky winner of the competition in this blog) enjoyed a sumptuous meal at Arbutus with a friend. John has kindly written to me about it, you can read his own review of this meal below.

From: john t [mailto:xxxxxxx@hotmail.com]
Sent: Monday, October 11, 2010 12:37 PM
To: Hara, Luiz
Subject: Arbutus

Hi there,

As promised, here is a quick summary of our meal.

THE MEAL WAS FABULOUS! the menu looked a lot more scary that is was - I had Pigs head as my first starter, Clare had razor clams and prawn cake. Both were amazing - very very intense flavours but well balanced and delicious.

We then went onto foies gras parfait - almost as soft as a Mr Whippy ice cream, served with fig jam and a slice of toasted Brioche served in its own wooden stand. the alternative was moules in beer which neither of us fancied.

Mains - I had braised ox cheek with dauphinoise and braised veg, (one carrot, one piece of celery!) and Clare had plaice with broad beans and lemon (too much lemon?)

We then had one of the best (and not just because it was the biggest) creme Brulees I have ever had - served with a shot of Innes and McGunn beer - I liked it, the burn hops worked with the burnt sugar, but quite a sharp contrast. Clare played safe with a sauternes!

All the wine on the list (25 white, 25 red, all very interesting) were available in 250ml carafes so great choice and great idea - we had a Gruner Vetliner and then a Santeny - first one was oxidised but sommelier was excellent and changed it immediately.

Two great double espressos, and we were done!

Service was impeccable - friendly and efficient, restaurant was nice, absolutely packed, but did not feel crowded or rushed.

The only possible downside was that it was all too rich - came out longing for a green salad - in about a weeks time!!

So how was Bentleys? Did Mr Corrigan come and speak to you?

Thanks again for such a great prize!



  1. Great post - what a feast. I adore Bentley's, though usually dine downstairs, where a cheaper menu is on offer. All the dishes look very 'Corrigan' to me, except for the dessert.

  2. That looks exquisite... although I'm not sure I could handle all that booze!

  3. @ Laura - interesting, I should have another go at it at the downstairs bistro, thanks or the tip.

    @ Sarah - really?! I could have drunk a little more... specially of the gruner veltliner!

  4. what did you think of the Passito di Pantelleria? It is, without doubt, my favourite dessert wine but I find hard to come by in most restaurants sadly. A sommelier described it to us as tasting of sunshine, and I think that's a pretty apt description!


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