Scott's usually needs no introduction, but just in case you've been asleep under a rock (or perhaps a rock star) since 2006, it is the jewel in Caprice Holdings' crown, widely regarded as one of London's best restaurants and certainly its most famous - even more so these days than its slightly-faded sister The Ivy. A Mayfair institution throughout the twentieth century, Scott's fell out of fashion and favour at the turn of the millennium until being bought five years ago by Richard Caring, given a sensitive but stunning Martin Brudnizki makeover and transforming, seemingly overnight, into the capital's A-List hangout of choice.
Write off Scott's as a mere celeb canteen though at your peril, for behind the landmark round window and canopied entrance there's a beautiful, brilliant and welcoming restaurant catering to a far more diverse clientele than the paparazzi-populated press would have you believe.
The room is a clever, comforting mix of the old - dark wood panelling, leather chairs and banquettes - and the new - artworks and sculpture by, among others, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin and Gary Hume. A square bar around a vast stone seafood 'altar' dominates the main room; tables - none seating more than six - all face it. A connected yet discrete back room offers less theatrical seating in just as attractive surroundings.
Alexandra and I chose to sit at the bar; perched on our stools we had a perfect vantage point from which to watch the comings and goings of the constantly busy, buzzing room. Whilst browsing the menu we grazed on a generous complimentary medley of olives, almonds and - to my immense delight - pork scratchings. Scott's is first and foremost a seafood restaurant so naturally fish and crustacea feature heavily, but there's plenty of non-piscine choices and Alexandra and I in fact both ended up choosing non-fish starters.
My wild rabbit and black pudding salad with a crispy pheasant egg was a lovely taste of the countryside, little bitter leaves (dandelion, I think) and a sweet-ish grain mustard dressing complementing nicely the mellow rabbit and robust, peppery pudding. The pheasant egg, richer in flavour than a hen's and about half the size, had been poached until almost set, breadcrumbed and fried; it added interest in both texture and taste. Alexandra's buffalo mozzarella, zucchini flower, mint and broad bean relish was an Italian summer classic, the crunch of the lightly tempuraed flower contrasting with the milky softness of the cheese, the whole given freshness and bite by the relish.
We decided it was only right to order fish for our main courses; to come to Scott's and not have fish would be rather like going to a steakhouse and having the chicken. Most of the fifteen or so fish dishes on offer are simple assemblies of fish (all sustainable) either grilled, roasted or fried with butter or sauce and a vegetable or two, with the exception of a couple of more modern, modish dishes such as cod with chorizo and padron peppers. Fried slip soles with brown shrimps, olive oil and soft herbs (mine) and seared sea bass, lemon and herb butter (Al's) were both perfect; fantastic fish, luxuriously prepared and tasting great. There's not much more I can, or need, say; it was just brilliant. I also enjoyed a side-order of peas, bread beans and lovage.
Only I had room for pudding (this will surprise exactly no-one, I expect) and absolutely loved the chocolate Turkish delight. If I tell you it was, essentially, a deluxe, home-made Fry's Turkish delight bar topped with rose ice-cream and a crystallised rose petal, you'll probably either think "Ooooh!" or "Eeew!" but I can assure you it was the former. A glass of Banyuls rinsed it down delightfully, as had a bottle of Vouvray ‘Sec’ 2009 Bourillon Dorléans the rest of the meal.
Scott's' incredibly welcoming staff have that gift of making first-timers feel like the regulars - famous and not - who make up the restaurant's core clientele. We arrived early evening and lingered - unhurried - until much later, and it was fascinating to observe just how many seats at the bar and tables around the room were taken by solo diners and families who dropped in for a quick supper before going home, or out, before the table was reallocated to a dinner booking. Scott's functions, from what I could see, just like any good local restaurant, with the exception that its locale is probably London's grandest.