On the ground floor is a bar; you walk through this and walk upstairs to the dining room, split into two sections. The décor had a slight sense of a gentleman’s club, but I mean this in a positive way: it felt truly welcoming. The blue leather chairs with metal studs were both attractive and very comfortable, and there was no music. The walls were painted cream up to the dado level, and above this was a blue floral patterned fabric in place of wallpaper. The curtains were of matching fabric, which my wife (who understands these things) dismissed as “very 1980s”. There is a window at one end of the room, but this just looks out onto a building site next door. The floor is plain wood, as is usual these days, while tables have crisp white linen tablecloth and napkins. There were no flowers at all in the dining room, which perhaps contributed to the slightly masculine feel of the décor. On the walls were a series of prints of fish, plus one large painting of what presumably is a fishing boat. The ceiling was white and had directed spot lights, supplemented by a few side lamps on the walls, which had yellow lamp-covers. The lighting was excellent, carefully directed and making the menu easy to read. Why this basic concept seems to elude so many interior designers escapes me, so no peering into the gloom with a torch tonight. Tables had just salt and pepper set out, nothing else.
There was a lot to like about Bentley’s, with its attractive dining room and appealing menu. Ingredients are of good quality and the food is not fussy. Cold dressed crab mayonnaise was excellent, a generous portion of very fresh crab with a good mayonnaise (15/20). Belvelley smoked eel was rather a let-down, the eel oddly lacking in taste for something that usually has such a distinct flavour; potato pancakes with the eel were pleasant, though crème fraiche was perhaps not the most imaginative accompaniment (12/20). Much better were nicely grilled tiger prawns with a chickpea puree laced with olive oil and well-judged chilli (15/20). My main course (£17.50) was smoked haddock with crushed potatoes, a poached egg and a few greens as a base. I’m very fond of haddock, and this was a nice example, the potatoes also well prepared (14/20). Fish is costly these days, and a grilled Dover sole would have set us back £40 this evening. For dessert, a lemon posset (£7.70) was pleasant but was a little overwhelmed by the thick layer of rhubarb and ginger on crumble top (13/20). A good posset should have enough of its own lemony acidity to not need the further bite of the rhubarb. Better was a chocolate and hazelnut meringue with nice texture (15/20) with pleasant buttermilk sorbet.
Service was a little odd this evening. The dining room turned out to be quite warm, so I took my jacket off and put it on the back of my chair. I was immediately told this was not allowed since “Mr Corrigan thinks it looks untidy”. Coffees were brought part way through dessert and the waiter seemed bemused when I asked for them to be brought back later. Otherwise service was reasonable, the dishes arriving at a steady pace and no problems with topping up, though a couple of dishes were.placed incorrectly in front of the wrong diners if I am to be picky.
Further reviews: 01st Aug 2006