Tanya Gold Tanya Gold

Back to the future: Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill reviewed

The west end of London is still pale and necrotic, but there are points of light. Hatchards the bookseller is open and its memorial to the Duke of Edinburgh is relatively, blissfully, restrained: a portrait in the window, with minimal text for a writer to trip up on his own sycophancy. People are buying whisky on Jermyn Street. The greasy spoon Piggy’s in Air Street survives and if before you merely loitered outside restaurants and ate your food from a bucket you can now sit down, though a strange sort of duck marshal lurks in St James’s Park, and I do not trust him. I do not think he is really watching the ducks.

I celebrate the end of this lockdown at Bentley’s Oyster Bar & Grill in Swallow Street. I choose Bentley’s because it is famous, relatively ancient (established in 1916) and the food is reliable. I want to know who, besides myself, is credulous enough to eat outside on a day when it has also snowed. Bentley’s has established an urban garden with Astroturf, umbrellas, plants and heat lamps. It is not as beautiful as the interior — the real Bentley’s — which is, when I go in, as desolate and beautiful as C. S. Lewis’s Charn, with its shell-shaped lamps, dull silver plate and gloomy, fish-themed art. (Of course, it is gloomy. The fish are dead and this is their only proper memorial.) There is even a painting of Bentley’s with people inside it: Bentley’s before calamity.

‘We’re so lucky this island is exactly two metres wide.’

It is very cold, but we are jaunty because we are not in our homes, eating an impersonation of Bentley’s from a box (£280 for three or four, depending on your greed), but are actually outside Bentley’s and this is presumably progress.

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