Wiltons, the epitome of British fine dining in London, has been part of the fabric of St James’s since 1742. The menu offers an array of the highest quality oysters, seafood and game dishes, but so ardent are the restaurant’s regulars, that few of them ever need to read it.

It was 276 years ago when George Wilton first wheeled his barrows heaving with shellfish into his premises on Cockspur Street. He had a rich customer base in the hay and straw market close by (a street now known as the Haymarket) and his enterprise thrived. Ensuing generations gently evolved the business into a fully-fledged restaurant and today, in its current location on Jermyn Street, Wiltons is one of London’s greatest dining institutions.

The menu is a roll call of British classics, such as Cropwell Bishop Stilton soufflé and Dover sole, Rhug Estate venison and Rose County beef, with daily roasts trundled from table to table by carving trolley. Once Purveyor of Oysters to Queen Victoria by virtue of its Royal Warrant, Wiltons continues to shuck one thousand succulent oysters per week and serves them with their quintessential sidekicks – muslin-wrapped lemon, Tabasco and shallot vinegar. The restaurant is located close to the Cecil Wright offices, and so it’s often where Chris chooses to take his clients. “It’s a very discreet place to have a great lunch, and the service is so good, they make you feel as if you’re the only person there,” says Chris. 


Popular with MPs – from both sides of the House of Commons – and also with members of the House of Lords, Wiltons was also where controllers at MI5 and MI6 would meet their spies (the booth tables are particularly prized for their privacy). These days it’s more likely buzzing with captains of industry: “It’s the sort of place people want to go to be seen because they’re not going to be seen,” explains Jason Phillips, Wiltons’ Director, “Our clients are often the chairmen and presidents of companies – you’re more likely to see them on the pages of the Financial Times than Hello.” Wiltons attracts creatures of habit that prefer to sit at their table, “and they do tend to order the same thing, without looking at a menu,” says Jason.


Change is slow at Wiltons, which is reassuring for its loyal clients. They can always rely on their favourite dishes being served, and that the ambience will remain the same. The interiors – thick monogrammed carpet, plush green upholstery and subdued lighting – absorb the chatter from tables, every one of them filled with dining guests. “When we reopened after a recent refurbishment, we deemed it a success when the regulars commented that while they knew improvements had been made they were unsure what we’d changed!” Jason explains. Though the jacket and tie policy was relaxed in recent years to lighten the atmosphere, many customers respectfully continue to wear them. 

Staff uniforms have the aura of a bygone era, with waitresses clothed in seaweed green dresses with white collars and aprons. The outfits are distinctive, charming and resolutely old-fashioned, the perfect sartorial symbol for this establishment. “Wiltons will always be unaffected by fads and trends,” says Jason, “It doesn’t have to prove itself: Wiltons just is.”


Wiltons Partridge And Sauces

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