"Don't eat oysters unless there is an 'r' in the month" so the rule goes for native oysters from the northern hemisphere. It was Saturday night in the West End, and we were trying to work out where we could go for a quick bite, which wasn't one of the rammed packed themed restaurants, Turkish kebab-cum-pizzerias and Chinese restaurants which populate the area, before the cinema. Thankfully for me the saying reminded me of one of my favourite theatreland spots, the Oyster Bar at J Sheekey.
There are two things I love about the Oyster Bar at J Sheekey. The first is you don't need to make reservations, and the second is its fish take on Welsh rarebit - it's fish and cheese heaven on toast. So we headed there at around 7pm, walking in to find the bar full of actor types, middle aged theatre goers, well-heeled couples and Kelly Brook dining with a girl friend in one of the booths.
The Oyster Bar at J Sheekey is located next door to the restaurant, and is open from noon. There are a few tables at the side of the restaurant by the window, but most of the action takes place at the counter where you can sit and perch with a glass of champagne while you watch oysters being shucked with vigour and tenacity - they're not the easiest things to open, so it's interesting to watch them being prepared.
Cornish mussels with cider
Other dishes worth ordering include the steamed Cornish mussels with cider and Gloucester bacon (£8.95), razor clam persillade with sea pursalne (£9.75) and J Sheekey fish pie (£9.75), but for me the smoked haddock rarebit will always be my favourite dish. Simple and homely it's cheese heaven on a plate, and the perfect dish to seek refuge with from the hustle and bustle of the West End on a Saturday night.
Cheese heaven: smoked haddock rarebit
The menu is filled with seafood classics including fish pie, potted shrimp and of course oysters, but the reason I always return here is for the smoked haddock rarebit (£6.25) which I always order as an entree. This fishy take on the Welsh classic combining smoked fish and a thick cheese sauce on toast is full flavoured and moreish with the perfect ratio of bread and topping. It's delicous on its own, but I always love the bite a splash of Worcestershire sauce adds (try it at home and drizzle some on top of your cheese before you grill).