I skipped merrily along the streets of Mayfair, eagerly anticipating a night with other obsessed foodies and the renowned culinary prowess of Richard Corrigan's restaurant. Plus, Simon Majumdar, co-author of the brilliant Dos Hermandos blog with his brother Robin, had mentioned a substantial goody bag.... I have been known to bowl over small children at parties for a goody bag. This was not to be missed.
I joined the buzzing roomful at 7pm, and was welcomed by a glass of oyster stout hearty enough to put hairs on your chest. Beckoning nearby were a steady stream of luscious, freshly shucked native oysters. Enormous trays frolicked around the room, bursting with succulent giant prawns fried in the perfect amount of light, crispy batter. So far, so fabulous.
All in good time, we settled down for some serious feasting. Joining me at the table was a fantastic array of food lovers - the lovely TGS, aka Robin, from Dos Hermanos; food writer, Andrew Webb; Bibendum wine blogger, Dan; Tim Hayward, a gregarious food writer (and recent winner of the 2009 Guild of Food Writers Award for New Media) passionate about many food issues, but evidently none more than a sensational fish pie; Michael from Sydney with superlative taste in worldwide food and coffee haunts; fun loving foodies, Vicky and Pam; and a man of great literary inclinations, Ivan, who actually reads my blog (a rare trait indeed) and will even pretend to recall bits of it when bribed with alcohol.
Throughout the night, I also met many other terrific food obsessives, including Simon who did a first rate job of making sure odd balls like me had someone to talk to, and the faces behind some of my favourite food writing.
But the main event was the outstanding feast the kitchen had in store for us.
Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill is a London institution which has been in the game since 1916 and was rejuvenated by the appointment of Richard Corrigan as head chef in the early 1990s - Richard now owns the restaurant and the kitchen is headed up by the talented Brendan Fyldes. The style is robust, down to earth, seasonal food.
First course was a platter containing a delicious bounty of smoked seafood (including salmon, tuna, eel and mackerel) as well as potted shrimp and pikelet sized blinis. Oh, how I love blinis. I think I went back for 5ths.
The main meal was the real conqueror. A huge pot, resplendent with tender cheeks of beef cooked in oyster stout, was placed ceremoniously in the centre of each table, with sides of creamy mash and roasted potatoes, parsnip and baby carrots. This alone was enough to feed a gourmet army.
However, the best was yet to come, in the form of two delectable fish pies. The fresh "meaty" chunks of salmon, haddock, prawns and scallops, steamily heart warming, were absolute gullet pamperers. Upon first bite, Tim emitted an involuntary great whoop of delight. I had never eaten fish pie this good.
Pudding was also a lip smacker. We shared 2 immense toffee puddings, rich and moist, with thick cream which I greedily drowned in as much toffee sauce as I could get away with while avoiding eviction.
Each dish was accompanied by a superb wine. I can't for the life of me remember the names (Bibendum Dan will be most displeased, if not surprised) but the Australian muscat style sticky was head rollingly good. [Postscript: I now know the wines were generously supplied by Nepenthe and Wines Unearthed.]
With a guest list that included some astute foodies, the chefs were clearly out to impress. However, the dazzle certainly worked on this simple scoffer. I'm quite desperate to return with The Peanut Gallery to sample more. Until then, I'll have to make do with trying to hide my enormous goody bag.
An outstanding meal and experience all round. It has certainly inspired many adjectives from me this evening, but then I'm trying to make do without food snaps (can't snap, must eat...). Thanks again, Dos Hermanos.
Bentley's Oyster Bar and Grill, 11-15 Swallow Street, Mayfair, London W1B 4DG