Sweetings is something of an institution on the city. Its been here since 1889 and by the looks of things hasn’t changed much in all that time. It’s only open for lunch from 11:30-3pm and they don’t take bookings.
With this much history and character, you might expect Sweetings to be a bit on the eccentric side, and you’d be right. I ended up here having lunch with colleagues, and it’s very much a City place. Surrounded by businessmen and women, many a deal has probably been sealed over the tables here.
I for one, found Sweetings a bit like that irreverent friend who behaves outrageously but somehow gets away with it. It’s not a very big place and even a little guy like me had to lean one way or another to let assorted waiting staff (many of whom had obviously been there for years) past on their way to serve other punters further along the table, but you know what?
I didn’t mind.
Our waiter was a doddering old chap with an accent I couldn’t place, but he definitely had some Italian in him so let’s call him Luigi. He’d obviously n there for years, so long in fact that he reminded me of my grandad. He wasn’t too on the ball, and forgot to come back a couple of times, and when I asked him what the chef recommended he looked at me like I was deluded.
“Chef?” he said dismissively, “I’ll tell you what I would have for lunch!”
Luigi recommended the Dover sole, which was very good, as was the lobster, and the oysters were good too, along with the Dover sole. And by the way, the Dover sole was excellent.
I took the hint.
My starter was a smoked salmon pate, and it was served, surprisingly with some rather plastic bread. Plastic bread? I had been expecting something a bit more artisan, at least have your bread hand made! It was just as well that the snob in me calmed himself, their smoked salmon pate DOES go really well with plastic bread. It was like some divine marriage of school dinners and Raymond Blanc.
The Dover sole was, as Luigi had said, utterly fantastic. Not only did the fish frame just lift out of the fish, it was just cooked, and yet had that chunky texture that grilled fish is supposed to have. Perfection in simplicity, just grilled with a bit of garlic and parsley butter. It was the sort of grilled fish that seemed to declare “THIS is how you grill a fish and I don’t give a damn about the chewy peas or flaccid broccoli”. Our sides weren’t that great and the chips were a little too greasy, and typically id have more to say, but i could forgive them the drab spinach for such an incredibly grilled fish.
We skipped on dessert, strangely enough, because the bill arrived shortly after Ryan asked for coffee. They don’t serve it here, presumably so that they can get more diners through in their short opening time. If there wasn’t any coffee, everyone needed to get back to their desk, so no dessert for me.
Sweetings is an experience, I wouldn’t come here just for the food, I’d also come here for the character. Whilst the food will always be the centrepiece and it will certainly deliver, but whilst you’re at it, enjoy the eccentricity of the place.
Lunch for 3 including wine came to about £50 per head. Obviously it ain’t kid friendly.