"Shaken, not stirred." That Bond catchphrase stipulating how the British spy wanted his dry martini prepared was reportedly first uttered by Ian Fleming at Scott's, the legendary seafood restaurant and oyster bar which we re-opened last week in Mayfair.
Whether the Fleming tale is true or not, Scott's was undeniably the epitome of glamour in the Fifties and Sixties, attracting the likes of Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe and Charlie Chaplin. It was also mentioned in the movie classic The Great Escape, when two POWs talked about it as the first place they wished to go when the war was over.
According to Richard Tames' book, Feeding London: a Taste of History (£16.10, Historical Publications Ltd), the restaurant was also a magnet for the Oxford and Cambridge boat crowd. But Scott's had a gritty past, too. In November 1975, the restaurant was attacked by the IRA - one of our suppliers remembers how her parents had a close shave after they were moved to another table.
Over the past three years, the Caprice Holdings project to update Scott's has sometimes been a uphill battle, involving moving every piece of mechanical equipment in the restaurant. We've done this in order to reduce the noise from the chilling equipment, and to be eco-friendly. It's meant investing in bore-hole technology to bring chilled water up from the depths of the city, as well as taking measures to reduce the fumes from the kitchen. But finally, we're up and running.
The history of Scott's is sketchy in parts, and if any readers want to fill me in on any details, I'd be grateful to find out more. The restaurant was originally opened on its Haymarket site in 1851 by a young fishmonger, John Scott. After changing hands several times, in 1893 the original building in Coventry Street was rebuilt by the designers Treadwell and Martin. Over the next 50 years, Scott's gained a reputation as one of London's best seafood restaurants. And in 1968, it was relocated to its current site in Mayfair.
Today the restaurant has been redesigned by Martin Brudnizki - and we have restored the famous oyster bar, as well as turning the downstairs bar (some of you may remember it) into a private dining room. During the past couple of months I've been choosing pieces of art from the likes of Michael Landy, Gary Hume, Anya Gallaccio, Gary Webb and the Wilson sisters, which I hope complement the room's distinctive Fifties style.
The new menu at Scott's will consist of half a dozen or so varieties of oysters, as well as the simply cooked classic fish dishes that we specialise in at J Sheekey, with the addition of some new items (turn over for five exclusive recipes). Kevin Gratton, the head chef at Le Caprice, has taken up the reins to create the new Scott's menu, and Mathew Hobbs, who started his career as a runner at the Ivy, becomes the new Scott's general manager.
Crispy Herring and Bacon Salad
Herrings don't tend to appear on that many menus these days - and if they do, they are generally pickled and cured. Catching herring, however, was once a thriving industry on the east coast of England and the fish is still around in much smaller numbers, although its nutritious qualities are often overlooked.
2 medium herrings, filleted, with as many of the small bones removed as possible, then cut into 2cm pieces
Plain flour for dusting
250g herring roes
4 thick rashers of pancetta or bacon, cut into rough 1/2cm cubes
Vegetable oil for frying
A good knob of butter
60-80g curly endive and dandelion or just curly endive
For the dressing
1tsp Dijon mustard
1tsp grain mustard
1 shallot, peeled and very finely chopped
1tbsp cider vinegar
2tbsp vegetable or corn oil
2tbsp extra virgin rapeseed or olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 140C/gas mark 1.
Have two shallow dishes ready, one with the flour, seasoned with salt and pepper, and the other with the milk. Put the herring roes and fillets through the flour, dusting off any excess, then through the milk, draining any excess, and through the flour again. Meanwhile, heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and cook the herring and roes (you may need to do this in a couple of batches) for 2-3 minutes on each side until crisp; then remove from the pan and keep warm in the oven. While the herring and roes are cooking, heat a little more oil in another pan and cook the pieces of bacon for 2-3 minutes until crisp, then remove from the pan and keep warm with the herring.
Whisk all of the ingredients together for the dressing and season. Toss the salad leaves in the dressing and arrange on plates with equal quantities of the roes, herring and bacon scattered over.
I remember that during my first job in a kitchen, while I was at college, we used to just defrost the prawns to order under the tap (no, really, this is all true), shake some sauce out of a jar and add a bit of shredded lettuce and a sprinkling of paprika: job done.
I don't know anyone who doesn't like a prawn cocktail; there's just something about that sauce that makes even the worst frozen prawns taste just great. But if you take this Seventies must-have menu item up a couple of notches, adding things like langoustines, lobster, crab and fresh prawns, spicing up the sauce a little and maybe adding some finely shredded cucumber, you can create a truly luxury seafood cocktail.
Buying a whole lobster for a couple of people isn't very cost-effective, so I would recommend getting a small crab and using the shells for a bisque. The rest of the ingredients are up to you, depending on what's available.
Half a small cucumber
1 small head of romaine or cos lettuce, trimmed and washed
1 head of Belgium endive, trimmed
4 spring onions, finely shredded
1 lemon or lime, quartered
4 large or 8 medium prawns, cooked and peeled
4 scallops, removed from the shell and cleaned
20 plump mussels, de-bearded, cooked and removed from the shell
120g freshly picked white crab meat or the meat from a small lobster, cut into slices, or both if you wish
For the sauce
5tbsp good quality mayonnaise
5tbsp tomato ketchup
2tsp Worcestershire sauce
A few drops of Tabasco
Juice of half an orange
1tbsp creamed horseradish or 1tbsp freshly grated horseradish
1/2tbsp Pernod or Ricard
1/2tbsp chopped dill
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Peel the skin from the cucumber quite thickly and shred the skin into 4cm long sticks. Cut the rest of the cucumber in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds with a spoon; cut the flesh into a small 1/2cm dice.
Shred the lettuce and Belgium endive as finely as you can and mix together with the spring onions and diced cucumber flesh (not the skin). Meanwhile, put the scallops in a pan with a tablespoon of water, season, cover with a lid and heat gently for a minute, turning them over after 30 seconds. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Make the sauce by mixing all of the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper.
To serve, put the lettuce mixture into nice-looking glasses like large martini glasses or similar - or even into a silver coupé. Arrange the seafood on top (you could save a lobster claw or prawn for the garnish) and spoon the sauce over. Serve with a pile of the shredded cucumber skin, a quarter of a lemon or lime and the prawn or lobster on top.
Mussels with cider
With their plump, juicy flesh, mussels are in peak condition this time of the year. We're all so conditioned to pour wine into our sauces that we totally forget about using our native cider instead.
2kg mussels, washed and the beards removed
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
6 rashers of good quality rindless streaky bacon, finely chopped
A good knob of butter
400ml dry cider
100ml double cream
2tbsp finely chopped parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot big enough to fit the mussels (you may need two, depending how many you're feeding), gently cook the onion, garlic and bacon in the butter for 2-3 minutes to soften the onion. Add the cider and simmer for a minute or so. Add the mussels, cream and parsley, season and cook with a lid on for a few minutes, stirring every so often until all the mussels have opened. Serve immediately in bowls with the liquor and remember to provide spare bowls for the shells.
Queenies with chilli and garlic
You don't see queen scallops that often in fishmongers, so you may need to order them in advance; if you can't find them, use small scallops. When I was a kid in West Bay in Dorset, I remember the boats would come in piled high with "queenies", as the locals would call them. Those scallop beds are not so fruitful these days - for some reason there's not that much demand for them. f
40-50 queen scallops, opened, cleaned and left on the half-shell
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2 red or green chillies, halved, seeded and finely chopped, or a couple of teaspoons of dried chilli flakes
2tbsp chopped parsley
The juice of half a lemon
These tiny scallops need to be cooked very briefly, so a large, non-stick pan is ideal (if you have an Aga you could start them directly on the cooking plates).
Season the queen scallops, then heat up your non-stick pan until it's almost smoking. Lightly rub the pan with olive oil and cook the queenies, flesh-side down, for a minute. Then remove them from the pan and place on a baking tray, flesh-side up. You will need to cook the queenies in 2-3 batches or perhaps even more, depending on how many of you there are. Pre-heat a grill ready to warm the scallops when you are about to serve them. Gently cook the garlic and chilli in the rest of the olive oil for 2-3 minutes until soft, and then add the butter and parsley and cook gently for a minute. Season to taste and add the lemon juice.
To serve, simply heat the scallops under the grill and spoon over the butter mixture.
Skate with periwinkles
Winkles are not so highly regarded here, but in France they're abundant in the plateaux de fruits de mer that are often served in bars with drinks. You used to see them on fish stands at the seaside, but sadly the dreaded crab sticks have taken over - our children are going to believe these imposters are really from the sea.
Winkles are a bit fiddly to eat, but it's well worth taking the trouble for a dish like this.
4 skate wings, each about 200-250g, skinned and trimmed
Salt and freshly ground white pepper
Plain flour, to dust
Vegetable or corn oil, to fry
150g unsalted butter
50g extra fine capers, drained and rinsed
Juice of 1 lemon
250-300g live winkles, washed well
1tbsp chopped parsley
Bring a pan of salted water to the boil, add the winkles and cook for 5 minutes, drain and leave to cool. Then remove the meat with a toothpick and remove the little hard flat foot attached to the meat.
Season the skate wings and lightly flour them. Heat the oil in a heavy-based or non-stick frying pan and cook them for 3-5 minutes on each side until they are golden. Just before the wings are cooked, add about one-third of the butter to the pan and continue to fry for about a minute to give them a nice brown colour. When they are done, remove them from the pan and keep warm. If your pan isn't large enough to cook them all at once, brown them two at a time and finish them all in an oven pre-heated to 200C/gas mark 6 for about 10 minutes.
Wipe the pan with some kitchen paper (or use a clean pan), add the rest of the butter and heat it gently until it begins to foam. Add the capers, lemon juice, periwinkles and parsley, and remove from the heat.
Put the skate on warm plates and spoon the contents of the pan evenly over the top. Serve with spinach and good buttery mash.
Scott's, 20 Mount Street, London W1 (020-7495 7309)
What else to eat in December
Now's the time to decide whether you're going to eat goose, turkey or maybe even a suckling pig - they're all perfect for the Christmas table. Or you could maybe try giving everyone a partridge each with chestnut stuffing. There is still plenty of game around, including partridge, pheasants and wild ducks, which make a perfect pâté.
If you're bored of apples and pears, then try putting quince into your crumble, or use them to make quince cheese (quince paste). Pomegranates also make great table decorations at this time of year, or you could add them to braised game or lamb to create a classic Persian feast.
It's also time to make the most of brussels sprouts; try using sprout tops, boiled briefly and tossed in butter with shallots or chestnuts.Reuse content