J. Sheekey Atlantic Bar’s summer lobster menu redefines theatreland dining
Don’t miss the last days of this West End restaurant’s knockout seasonal menu
It’s difficult to imagine finding fine dining in the heart of London’s theatreland. Yet, established more than 100 years ago, seafood and shellfish restaurant J. Sheekey, and its sister-restaurant J.Sheekey Atlantic Bar, has long been elevating the West End’s gastronomic efforts. Tucked away on St Martin’s Court, it’s impossible to miss J. Sheekey’s brightly coloured awning – a style throwback to years past that still shields those diners committed to a spot of people-watching over their dinners no matter the weather.
We arrive on a summer’s evening just as the pre-theatre guests head off to their evening shows. The restaurant’s interior tables look onto a stunning Art Deco style central champagne and oyster bar, which immediately draws the eye and reminds diners of a bygone era. But the impressive seasonal cocktail menu is unapologetically modern, with its classy concoctions summarising this restaurant’s approach; refined but far from stuffy.
I opt for a whisky-based Very Cherry – a blend of Chivas 12yrs, Maraschino cherry, pineapple, orgeat and lime – which proves subtle and refreshing, before we head out to the terrace to sample J. Sheekey’s remarkable summer lobster menu. Known for its seasonal, fresh ingredients, J. Sheekey is a staple for shellfish connoisseurs and novices alike, and each menu by its talented chefs is designed to explore the limits of their ingredients.
The summer lobster menu does just this, with six rather daring recipes that display a surprising diversity to lobster meat. We start with a classic bisque, chilled and creamy, before moving on to lobster and avocado rolls. The lobster is complimented perfectly by the fresh avocado, and offers a flavoursome, healthy choice that would be ideal as a starter on its own. Then, another winner: a cold Asian salad with grapefruit and avocado.
The lobster salad’s perfectly balanced flavours feature a hint of chilli amid the freshness, while the grapefruit’s tart accompaniment brings out the sweetness of the lobster itself. Admittedly though, by this point I’m a little fatigued by the thought of another cold dish, and craving a different side to our star crustacean. >>
As if hearing my thoughts, our wonderful waiter arrives with the menu’s two showstopping dishes. First, lobster tacos with J. Sheekey hot sauce, followed by tempura with chilli jam.
The lobster tacos are deliciously sweet with a kick of chilli, and served on crunchy homemade taco shells. The tempura, however, is a must-eat. This dish is full of flavour and deceptively simple. Fried in the lightest of tempura batters – I am sworn to secrecy on the chef’s trick to its fluffy, crispy texture – and served with a generous helping of chilli jam to compliment the succulent lobster meat.
The freshness of the seafood partnered with its light accompaniments means there’s still room for dessert; another area where J. Sheekey shows its clever twists on classic dishes. We opt for a gooseberry crumble and honeycomb ice cream, both sweet and indulgent treats.
It’s tempting to linger and people-watch from the terrace, or head back to that Art Deco interior to learn more about J. Sheekey’s heritage as one of London’s most famous oyster bars. There’s more than a touch of accessible, old-school glamour about the place – despite a steady influx of West End tourist – harking back to a bygone era with a clever twist of modernity in its excellent menus.