SCOTT’s seafood restaurant in London’s Mayfair neighborhood traces its roots back over a hundred years. Yet longevity alone doesn’t make this one of Britain’s quintessential dining experiences. The restaurant has several other claims to fame as well.
The first thing you should know about Scott’s is that it was a favorite haunt of James Bond creator Ian Fleming, who always ordered his martinis here “shaken, not stirred.”
The second claim to fame is more a claim to infamy: In November, 1975, the IRA threw a bomb through their front window, killing one and injuring 13.
Undaunted (“Keep Clam and Carry the Dover Sole to Booth 12.”), Scott’s not only survived, but flourished; and today is known as one of London’s principal celebrity hangouts. The list of regulars is long – Michael Caine, Bill Nighy, Johnny Depp, Tom Cruise, Steven Spielberg, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, and finally Bill Clinton.
Joanne and I have dined at Scott’s on several occasions but have never, ever sighted a celebrity. We’ve dined on its patio several times, however, and there the stars come out in force. We like to book on a crisp fall night and request table #63, in proximity to two flaming upright heaters. It’s magical.
If only we’d had an adjacent table on June 9th, 2013, when TV personality and foodie goddess Nigella Lawson and her husband, advertising mogul Charles Saatchi, dined at #63. There, according to The Daily Mail, they “played out their entire relationship including the throat grabbing finale.” It was apparently quite a row, as the British say. Saatchi disputes the “throttling” (to quote another account), but Nigella stands by the reporting.
They divorced a month later and, according to staff, Nigella hasn’t returned since (I can’t imagine why). But Saatchi was back at Scott’s within weeks – this time with glam fashion stylist Trinny Woodhall (more on that later).
Note, however: The patio is a coveted spot. More often than not, Joanne and I find ourselves seated inside (table #12 is our favorite).
We’ve made entire meals out of Scott’s extensive raw bar and starter selections, including a few favorites like Deep Fried Oysters in avocado cream, Octopus Carpaccio with spring onion and coriander, and Chilled Lobster Mayonnaise (a favorite of mine, not Joanne’s). We’ve also had the Pan Seared Sardines, which neither of us much loved. I guess it’s a European thing – like oily, fishy mackerel, an unaccountably popular dish on Scott’s menu, and indeed throughout the continent.
Another note: Scott’s can be expensive. As Jay Rayner of The Guardian wrote, “Prices are as bruising as a rugby scrum on crystal meth.” And that’s true, especially with the lobster and the Dover Sole. On the other hand, you ARE just 60 miles from Dover, and…well, just this once???
Fortunately, Joanne and I have “cracked the code” for semi-economical eating at Scott’s by making a meal of starters – four or five selections at around 14-20 pounds each. Along with a modest bottle of wine, we’re in and out for around 150-170 pounds. It’s not cheap, but totally in line with other restaurants in London, and the fact is: good seafood isn’t cheap (nor is cheap seafood any good). And the seafood here is PRISTINE.
Scott’s philosophy is not to get in the way of natural flavors, so preparations are never overly complex. Indeed, they lean toward delightful simplicity. This isn’t Le Bernardin in New York. It’s more like Estiatorio Milos (which I wrote about earlier this year; and compared to that restaurant, Scott’s is a bargain).
Main course standouts included the Pan-Seared Sea Bass in lemon-herb butter at around 26 pounds, and the Roasted Cod with chorizo sausage and roasted jalapeno peppers – similarly priced. Fish and Chips with Mushy Peas runs just shy of 20 pounds, and if you’re in the mood for a slight splurge, you can enjoy a Half Lobster Thermador for about 30 pounds.
Desserts run about 10 pounds. We loved the tart, sweet Gooseberry Crumble with crème anglaise. I told the waiter that we live near a place called Gooseberry Falls, Minnesota. He pretended to give a shit.
If you’re in London, give SCOTT’S a try. Don’t expect to be blown away by magical or bizarre plating. There are no “skyrockets” and no attempts to be clever. It’s simply the freshest fish and shellfish in London, professionally prepared and served.
Now, back to Charles Saatchi and his new girlfriend. A month after the alleged strangling incident, seated outside (once again at “the choking table”), the two of them appear to be in love. Or is Trinny simply protecting her throat from another throttling?