SWEETINGS: SCHOOL GRUB FOR GROWN UPS AND LAYABOUTS
Well, it is official. I am unwaged and one of the great unwashed.
I left my real job on Friday and am now in full pelt towards the start date of EAT MY GLOBE. Exciting huh? Well, yep and fricking scary too. Scary enough to have me waking up in the middle of the night in flash sweats with thoughts of returning to London in a year or so, a battered and broken man with nothing more to offer the world than the fact that I can do fantastic porno shadow puppets. It is, as the strap line to our blog says “not much, but it’s mine” My “happy bunny does anal” is worth the entrance money on its own.
There is however an upside. The leisurely lunch. It is, as HP would say, what separates us from the beasts and it is one of the most truly decadent things a man can do.
There are few better companions for such pleasures than my friend, Martin. Retired and retiring, Martin is the most amiable of table mates and is always up for a decent meal.
I had been meaning to try Sweeting’s for as long as I can remember. But, as it is only a lunch place and not open at weekends, the opportunities had been few and far between. It doesn’t take bookings, so I arranged to meet Martin outside at 11.30am just as it was opening its doors to the waiting throng of, well, the two of us.
Someone unkind once described Sweeting’s as a place where fathers took their sons before shipping them off to boarding school so they could get used to how foul the food was going to be. It’s a lot better than that suggests but, I can see what they mean. Sweetings is the sort of place you would bring someone to show them how things used to be done when they were done properly and how good they could taste with little faffing around.
The menu is almost entirely fish based and as we perched precariously on the slightly wobbly bar seating, Martin started with some fabulously mild soused herring and I had fried whitebait. Mine, while fresh and served with a tartar sauce that I wanted to put my head into and go ‘blubbery” was slightly disappointing and lacked the necessary crunch.
Main courses are very traditional fish dishes and you can choose from Dover Sole, Plaice and Halibut, grilled or fried. We both chose other options. Martin had never encountered Barramundi before so this was as good an opportunity as any to pick one of the specials. What he got was a perfectly prepared chunk of this most meaty of fish on a slightly gloopy looking red wine sauce. Better, was my choice of two thick slices of smoked haddock topped with two poached eggs with pristine set whites and runny yolks which dribbled pleasingly over the fish when I speared them with a fork. Side dishes of chips and peas were a little canteen like, but the fish was the star and star it did.
Then it all went pear shaped. Actually if went Jam Roly poly shaped. The puddings at Sweeting’s are, quite rightly, the stuff of legend. The stuff that built the empire. They are stodgy, filling, dense and damn, damn tasty. We ordered the afore mentioned roly poly and a slab of spotted dick perfect examples of the genre both. However, Martin chose this moment to start loudly lamenting the current condition of restaurant custard. Our server, Jodie, was charm itself. I would have leapt over the counter and slapped him several times hard with an extra one for good measure and an added one just because I enjoyed it. She looked serene, defended the custard to her best ability and even offered to bring us some ice cream as well in case it did not pass muster. I am pretty sure she said “ in case your senile old grandad doesn’t like it” but Martin, thankfully did not hear that.
Whatever was wrong with the custard, he still ate enough of it as he ladled it on to his, er dick ( I normally have to pay people good money to do that, ahem) and managed to tuck away more than his fair share of the roly poly too.
This is The City, so it is not cheap. But, great fun and great fish. The bill for the two of us was a hefty £120 including a very good bottle of Petit Chablis, an unfeasibly large glass of non descript Graves with our puds and a well deserved tip for Jodie who had to put up with my annoying friend.
Not a bad way to start the next part of the uphill journey that is my life or my first ever stint of unemployment. Please be aware though that I will soon be appearing on a street corner near you holding a sign saying “ will drop trousers for food”