Fortescue and I wandered around the Rodin exhibition at Tate Modern. It’s interesting but easily surpassed by a visit to the Rodin museum in Paris! Fat chance of going there any time soon. We decided not to venture further east towards Tower Bridge fearing that we might find ourselves glued to some hemp wearing, Extinction Rebellion road ornament. So, we tottered over the wobbly bridge and sauntered into Sweetings.
Now for the unitiated, Sweetings is one of London’s great institutions with an almost Dickensian feel. Having originally opened in 1830 it is the oldest fish restaurant in town and has been in its current location for over 100 years with only five owners. It serves all the classics including caviar, lobster and Dover Sole. The interior has received very little more than the odd lick of paint in all the time it has been here. It has hosted many of the great financiers/stockbrokers celebrating their successful deals in the boom times. You couldn’t book a seat and still can’t and you couldn’t get a seat if you didn’t arrive early. The restaurant was packed every day.
However Covid has hit the City hard and with less people in town we had no problem getting in. Despite not being full there was still a buzz about the place and I personally love the tradition that goes with it. We were greeted with a smile by a young man who showed us to our “table” in the main area by the bar. When I say table we actually chose to sit at the old wooden bar area. If you want more comfortable seating then you should opt for a table rather than the bar area. You can see part of which you can see in the photo below. Yes, the beer is really on tap! Hurrah!
Beata, our waitress convinced yours truly that the oysters were worth having and fortunately they weren’t from Whitstable as their oysters have a slight image problem at present to say the least. Fortescue plumped for lobster but sadly there was none available owing to the Bank Holiday which always plays havoc with deliveries. He therefore chose crab salad with gravadlax to follow.
My main was a skate with black butter which is one of my favourites and was perfectly cooked. The chips which I selected as an accompaniment were some of the best I have had in recent times. Crunchy on the outside, fluffy in the middle and piping hot. The accompanying Macon villages was dry and crisp and complemented the meal perfectly despite being quite expensive. Is it me or have restaurants raised the price of their wine by quite some margin since reopening? One restaurant I visited recently sold me a bottle of wine at £38 which I can buy from Majestic Wine for £6.99. Now, I wholeheartedly believe in them making a fair profit but this is somewhat greedy.
I am so glad that restaurants like Sweetings still continue despite the constant influx of new restaurants with their glitzy decor and often overpriced menus. Not that I don’t like some of them! If you fancy a bit of tradition, Sweetings is the perfect venue but it is priced for the City so don’t expect it to be cheap! I guess that many foodies probably won’t understand what it offers. So if you want Michelin-starred, Masterchef style cooking then look to restaurants like Scotts or J. Sheekey as you will only be disappointed. This is good, honest, traditional fare with no pretensions.
However if you fancy a more meaty, cheaper, traditional venue then you could walk a few minutes down the road to Simpsons Chop House. NO….not the Simpsons that you are thinking about in The Strand. This Simpsons is classic, classic London and it’s great value too. Come to think of it, maybe I shouldn’t have told you about that one…
39 Queen Victoria Street