Bennett Oyster, Bar & Brasserie, 4-9 Battersea Square, London SW11

The uncertainty that characterises everything about Bennett's Oyster Bar starts with a telephone call. I rang to book a table and said, "I grew up in Battersea and I've never heard of Battersea Square. Where exactly is it?". "It's off Northcote Road," said the voice. Just to check, I looked it up on urbanspoon.com, the food lover's website, where it seemed to be located somewhere off Lavender Hill. A second phone call to the restaurant established that it's half a mile from either road, in the little riverside enclave off Vicarage Crescent.

Very jolly it looks too, in this charmingly reclaimed bit of wharfland. It was once owned by a coal merchant called Simon Bennett, who ferried the black stuff up the Thames and dumped it in the cellar, prior to distributing it to the hearths of rich folk across the river in Chelsea. The cellar had a second incarnation in the 1970s as Bennett's nightclub, and was apparently frequented by Princess Margaret and Roddy Llewellyn in the heady springtime of their love.

Now it commands the square, full of light and warmth. Inside there are two quite distinct interiors. In the main brasserie, a long table runs down the middle; you can sit on bar stools for informal snacking. We were parked to one side, in an old-fashioned dining room with wooden floor, avocado banquettes, and mirrors that lean forward from the walls to reflect the heads of diners. It's cosy, but just a teensy bit Penge High Street.

The menu confirms that this is an oyster bar and brasserie. Along with the oysters, it offers a dozen seafood dishes and a further dozen standard-issue meat'n'fish dishes suggestive of an upmarket gastropub. This seems to be asking a lot of the kitchen. Bennett's also has a breakfast menu, and bakes cakes for its teatime clientele. But hang on, it also has a special Store, selling wine (which you can drink at your table for a small corkage fee), fruit and veg, and flowers.

I'm surprised they haven't thrown in a multiplex cinema, a bouncy castle and a boutique, as well. The all-things-to-all-men-women-and-children restaurant is a concept that's been struggling into public consciousness for years; it seems to me to require boundless energy and very patient staff. Can there be enough passing trade in this backwater of London SW11 to justify opening for breakfast and tea as well as lunch and dinner?

The Uncertainty Principle extends to the food. Unsure of whether to leave classic ingredients alone or add something to them, Bennett's unerringly goes for the latter option. Angie's margarita was sweet because some gum sugar had found its way into the tequila. Her mixed artichoke salad (three kinds of artichoke, one of which resembled a witchetty grub) with lamb's lettuce had its fresh salad-ness drenched in balsamic vinegar. My razor clams were accessorised with butter beans, red onions – and trace elements of wild boar. The umami taste of the boar overpowered everything else. "It's very unusual isn't it?" said Julia, our lovely waitress. "The chef is going for something... earthy." A shame, I reflected, that he couldn't settle for just fishy. Or, indeed, clammy.

Half a dozen native oysters from Loch Ryan in Scotland were sharply and brinily delicious which, at £3.20 each, they damn well should have been.

The menu promised monkfish tail wrapped in air-dried ham with spinach and gremolata, plus a crayfish risotto. They'd got the emphasis wrong. This was a plate of perfectly acceptable crayfish risotto, with an apologetically shrunk, ham-wrapped monkfish like an afterthought. The ham was lovely, but the monkfish – the most solid and meaty of white fish – decidedly mushy. Bennett's fish pie was 50/50 fish and potato, which I guess is about right for fish pie, and tasted fine – "Although," said Angie, "it's what I'd expect to find in a pub in Sussex". We asked what was in it. "Haddock, pollock, prawns, salmon and smoked salmon," they promised. Angie, already regretting there were no mussels or scallops to be found, could find no trace of prawn anywhere. The waitress disappeared and returned with an apologetic look on her face. "Prawn paste," she said shortly.

Some time around the pear tarte tatin with elderflower cream (the pastry undercooked, the pear in slices rather than chunks), the exceptionally charming and friendly owner, Ray Duhany, told us about his plans. He wanted, he said, to take his cue from posh, old-fashioned English cuisine – with an admixture of La Coupole. A veteran of Scotts of Mayfair and the Atlantic Bar & Grill, he's a chap of tremendous energy and drive, who deserves to succeed. I wish Mr Duhany every success, with the breakfast menu, the teatime, the shop, the wine and everything else. But until the kitchen clarifies its USP, refines its menu and stops adding otiose flavours to simple dishes, it'll be an uphill struggle.

Bennett Oyster, Bar & Brasserie, 4-9 Battersea Square, London SW11 3RA (020-7223 5545)

Food 2 stars
Ambience 3 stars
Service 4 stars

About £130 for two, with wine

Tipping policy: "Service charge is 12.5 per cent discretionary, of which 100 per cent goes to the staff; all tips go to the staff"

Side Orders: Oyster catches

The Oyster Shack

Try them baked with lime, peppers, bacon, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco at this popular Devon eaterie.

Milburn Orchard Farm, Stakes Hill, Bigbury, Devon (01548 810876)

Hix Oyster & Chop House

Three rock oysters with spicy Sillfield farm sausages (£7.75) is a signature dish at Hix's Clerkenwell outpost.

36-37 Greenhill Rents, Cowcross Street, London EC1 (020-7017 1930)

Loch Fyne Oyster Bar

Ultra-fresh oysters and seafood are catch of the day at the Scottish original, and best, of the Loch Fyne chain.

Clachan, Cairndow, Argyll (01499 600 264)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

    £8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Excellent opportunities are available for par...

    Investigo: IT Auditor

    £60000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits : Investigo: A global leading travel busi...

    Recruitment Genius: Chef De Partie x 2

    £16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This charming and contemporary ...

    Recruitment Genius: Membership Sales Advisor - OTE £20,000 Uncapped

    £15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing fitness cha...

    Day In a Page

    Mau Mau uprising: Kenyans still waiting for justice join class action over Britain's role in the emergency

    Kenyans still waiting for justice over Mau Mau uprising

    Thousands join class action over Britain's role in the emergency
    Isis in Iraq: The trauma of the last six months has overwhelmed the remaining Christians in the country

    The last Christians in Iraq

    After 2,000 years, a community will try anything – including pretending to convert to Islam – to avoid losing everything, says Patrick Cockburn
    Black Friday: Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Helpful discounts for Christmas shoppers, or cynical marketing by desperate retailers?

    Britain braced for Black Friday
    Bill Cosby's persona goes from America's dad to date-rape drugs

    From America's dad to date-rape drugs

    Stories of Bill Cosby's alleged sexual assaults may have circulated widely in Hollywood, but they came as a shock to fans, says Rupert Cornwell
    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    Clare Balding: 'Women's sport is kicking off at last'

    As fans flock to see England women's Wembley debut against Germany, the TV presenter on an exciting 'sea change'
    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful: The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?

    Oh come, all ye multi-faithful

    The Christmas jumper is in fashion, but should you wear your religion on your sleeve?
    Dr Charles Heatley: The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    The GP off to do battle in the war against Ebola

    Dr Charles Heatley on joining the NHS volunteers' team bound for Sierra Leone
    Flogging vlogging: First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books

    Flogging vlogging

    First video bloggers conquered YouTube. Now they want us to buy their books
    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show: US channels wage comedy star wars

    Saturday Night Live vs The Daily Show

    US channels wage comedy star wars
    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine? When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible

    When is a wine made in Piedmont not a Piemonte wine?

    When EU rules make Italian vineyards invisible
    Look what's mushrooming now! Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector

    Look what's mushrooming now!

    Meat-free recipes and food scandals help one growing sector
    Neil Findlay is more a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    More a pink shrimp than a red firebrand

    The vilification of the potential Scottish Labour leader Neil Findlay shows how one-note politics is today, says DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Tenderstem broccoli omelette; Fried eggs with Mexican-style tomato and chilli sauce; Pan-fried cavolo nero with soft-boiled egg

    Oeuf quake

    Bill Granger's cracking egg recipes
    Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

    Terry Venables column

    Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
    Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

    Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin