Wilton's is a British classic
Always in the St James's area, Wilton’s opened in 1742 as a stall selling oysters, shrimps and cockles in the Haymarket. It was owned by George William Wilton, a local fishmonger. Business prospered and under the management of George’s nephew, William, moved in 1805 to Cockspur Street, to be called Wilton’s Shellfish Mongers and Oyster Rooms
Thanks to interfering town planners the next 50 years saw the premises move around St James's, finally becoming a fully-fledged restaurant in 1840 in Ryder Street, then named Wilton’s Oyster Rooms. In 1884, as Purveyor of Oysters to Queen Victoria, the first Royal Warrant was received and a second as Purveyors to the Prince of Wales was granted later that year
In 1889, the restaurant moved out of the family for the first time and was bought by David Edwin Winder, moving to larger premises in Duke Street until 1913, when it returned to King Street, St James's. It was at this time that Wilton’s attracted a gastronomic clientele. The license was taken over in 1930 by Mrs Bessie Leal until 1942, mid-war, when Olaf Hambro, who happened to be eating oysters alone at the bar as a bomb landed on St James's Church, Piccadilly, asked for the restaurant to be added to his bill as Mrs Leal folded her tea towel and apron and declared Wilton’s closed
Mr Hambro engaged the services of Jimmy Marks, then oyster man at Bucks Club, and reopened a week later. Wilton’s moved to Bury Street in 1964, then to its current site at 55 Jermyn Street in 1984
This latest address is ideal for Wilton's clientele of MPs, Captains of Industry and members of the British aristocracy. A jacket and tie is required at all times except Sunday lunch when only a jacket is required
All this tradition comes at a price, and Wiltons has become synonymous with the very well-to-do and a clientele that knows exactly what it wants. The décor is impeccable. The à la carte embraces the full range of culinary dexterity and first courses of dressed crab, smoked eel or lobster bisque Newburg also leave room for hot or cold beef consommé. Wild turbot is served grilled or poached and Dover sole comes grilled, poached, meunière or as goujons. Top of the range is the Scottish lobster, again in four different manifestations. Whilst Wilton's is invariably associated with the fruits of the sea, the grill offers classic lamb kidneys and bacon or lamb cutlets. Traditional puddings include sherry trifle, bread and butter pudding and apple and fig crumble. At the bar, savoury snacks are available including anchovies on toast, Welsh rarebit and mushrooms on toast.