When I visited: January and June 2017
Location: London, near Leicester Square
Rating in the Michelin Guide: Recommended
What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress / workwear
Ambience: Cool, friendly
Course of the meal: Salmon tiradito with yuzu dressing
If I could change one thing: Give the bread for free
J Sheekey is tucked away on St. Martin’s Court but is in a prime location if you are going to one of the theatres near Leicester Square afterwards.
I went for a pre-theatre dinner, and opted to sit in the Atlantic Bar with my partner Owl (there is also a more formal restaurant).
We sat at the bar itself; I quite like eating at the bar in restaurants and think it works well if you’re on your own or in a couple, although it can be difficult to chat if you are in a bigger group. It means that you can watch the food being prepared in front of you, and often means you get friendlier service from the staff as you are keeping them company for an hour or so. One of the first things I noticed was that the plates seemed to be designed by Quentin Blake, a cool plus point. The lamps were also shaped like quenelles!
We were told that it is best to share a few things from the menu; while we were deciding, we selected a glass of Viognier each from the menu (which had a good selection of wines by the glass, carafe and bottle as well as pre-dinner cocktails) and ordered some bread. In a restaurant of this quality, with fairly high prices, I think the bread should have been free.
Our bass ceviche with chilli and passionfruit was pretty spicy but the passionfruit lent it a nice contrast; the salmon tiradito with yuzu dressing was even better, and definitely a dish I would recommend. For our slightly ‘bigger’ courses we went for scallops in shells and squid tempura, which came with chilli jam and half a lime to squeeze over it, with a side of spinach. All the food was good but the salmon tiradito was by far the best dish.
My partner Owl indulged in a rhubarb steam pudding with custard for dessert, which I’m told was also very good.
The staff were friendly throughout and service was generally prompt, although they were slightly slow to bring the spinach side with our mains. I noticed that a lot of the diners seemed to know the staff – it is the kind of place that seems to have a loyal following, which is usually a good sign.
There was a different artist’s work on the paper mats, but it was equally as quirky and cool as Quentin Blake’s drawings.
We had another pre-theatre dinner and sat at the bar, sharing some bread and seafood-infused crisps. I also indulged in two Atlantic Bar Martinis (lemongrass infused Wyborowa, wakame vermouth, Boker’s bitters) which were super-strong and came with shot glasses of seaweed thins (to soak up the alcohol?!), while my partner Owl enjoyed an ‘Apero’ Spritz’ – prosecco, Aperol, Beefeater gin, agave syrup, lime, and Angostura bitters.
The Ahi tuna poke was delicious and came with peppered pineapple, avocado and sesame. The stone bass ceviche with tiger milk dressing and plantain chips was good but a bit too spicy for my liking – although I did love the plantain chips as they remind me of St Lucia (I have rarely found great plantain chips outside St Lucia).
The Atlantic prawn, fennel and avocado salad with orange vinaigrette was my favourite dish this time – if you wanted a light meal, you could just order this with a cocktail. The seared Galician octopus with smoked paprika and capers was the best kind of octopus, reminiscent of the Kraken from Pirates of the Caribbean.
My partner Owl had the baked cheesecake with black cherries for dessert, which was the right side of sweet.
Throughout the whole meal, the staff were very personable and attentive. Sitting at the bar does help when you need quick service (as you do when you have a theatre event to get to).
I would definitely return to J Sheekey; it is a solid choice for a quick and light pre-theatre meal if you are in the area.