J. Sheekey, the fish and seafood specialist hidden just off St Martin's Lane, is the equally successful but never-quite-as-famous sibling of Scott's in Mayfair; Maggie Gyllenhaal to Scott's' Jake. It's also one of my absolutely favourite restaurants of all time, ever.
From my first visit about eight years ago with my then boyfriend to last night's brief but wonderful visit with my gorgeous friend Caroline, it's never disappointed, and while the prices might occasionally cause a sharp intake of breath - I'm still in therapy from the time I blithely said to mum 'Now don't worry about the prices, you just order what you like' only for her to 'like' half a lobster and the roasted mixed shellfish - there are some comparative bargains to be had.
During July and August, if you eat pre-theatre as Caroline and I did - Sheekey's is perfectly located for it - their superlative fish and chips and a glass of house wine can be had for just £15.75, about the same as at Brown's just across the courtyard except at Brown's there isn't a top-hatted doorman to greet you. From the a la carte menu, the justifiably famous fish pie is a very reasonable £13.50 and is pleasingly biased towards the piscine side of the filling/topping axis. At weekends, there's a set lunch menu offering three courses for a very fair £25.50.
What I'd really recommend however is that you save Sheekey's for those special occasions - anniversaries, birthdays, BAFTA wins - when you or whoever's paying feel inclined to blow the budget and you can indulge yourself in the full array of sparklingly fresh oysters, perfect crustacea and finest fish caught that day, along with a bottle or two from the excellent and not-too-terrfiyingly-priced wine list.
As well as superb food you'll enjoy superlative service, handsome decor and, if star spotting's your thing, no doubt a glimpse of a theatrical dame or motion picture knight or two. Booking's a bugger but worth persevering at; if you can't stand the struggle the more informal Oyster Bar next door doesn't require (but accepts) reservations and keeps some seats free for walk-ins.
The smart wood panelling, contemporary art and black and white photos of stage and screen stars through the ages make Sheekey's a very grown-up place (although children are welcome I've never seen any) and if there's anything to criticise about it - and I really do struggle to think of anything - it's that the atmosphere might at times feel a little too hushed and the general ambience a little too formal for some tastes. While there's always a sense of celebration in the air here, as a venue it's neither suited to nor intended for boisterous parties or casual dining; it's a serious place serving serious food, and photography - of others or of one's meal - would be as welcome as a bone in the filleted Dover sole.
Other restaurants might be more fun, or creative, or accessible than J. Sheekey, but very few indeed are actually better. I hope that you'll try it, and that when you do you'll love it as much as Maggie loves Jake.
J. Sheekey, 28-32 St. Martin's Court, London WC2N 4AL Tel: 020 7240 2565 http://www.j-sheekey.co.uk