There was a time when J Sheekey was the only place I wanted to go for posh fish and chips and the alluring promise of a little late night stardust hidden away in theatreland. After an absence of two years, would it still deliver the best fish supper in town and leave me wanting more?
It’s nine thirty on a Wednesday evening in late October when we are ushered through the famous brown door. We are immediately shown to a corner table in one of the enticing, warren-like rooms which lend this famous fish restaurant its celebrated air of a discreet gentleman’s club.
We order haddock and chips and mushy peas with a Kir Royale for me, a decent single malt for my companion. Less than fifteen minutes and our fried haddock and chips arrive with a jewel green slick of pea puree and a separate dish of hand cut chips, neither fat nor thin. The haddock doesn’t disappoint. The main attraction for blowing the budget on a princely fish and chip supper at J Sheekey is the promise of the finest, freshest fish, cooked to unfussy perfection with a little stardust thrown in.
The fish comes lightly golden, properly crispy, with a light, yielding tasty batter on the outside and pearly, sweet chunks of silky white fish on the inside. The Holy Grail when it comes to fish and chips! But oh shame about the portion size and presentation: The beached piece of haddock is served on an odd shaped plate more suited to a child’s portion and looks mean for the princely sum £17.25. The chips have the right balance of crispiness on the outside and soft and melting on the inside; but look lost on a separate dish. No care or love has been applied to the presentation. Food needs to look beautiful enough to eat. My man is not impressed. He suggests that the chips look a bit anaemic and slightly greasy too. We do agree that the pea puree is very good indeed. It tastes of mint and summer gardens after the rain and offers an interesting foil to our carbohydrate-laden meal. It bares no resemblance to hardcore mushy peas; I suspect most women happily prefer the ladylike J Sheekey version.
In the past I would have been very happy to linger, such was the intoxicating atmosphere of glamour and pizzazz and watching the beautiful people at play. Tonight I feel a tinge of regret and detect that the glamour quota and attention to detail has gone down a notch or two. Is it my imagination? Or is glamour a dying art? Perhaps it is all about the ability to pay now? We finish the meal with a well-executed apple pie and wonderfully rich, nutty vanilla ice cream. The final flourish, a delightful hot chocolate frothed to perfection and creaminess. Then we leave for a lovely walk home along the Embankment, admiring London after the politicians, civil servants and tourists have all retired for the night.
2 Haddock and chips with mushy peas
1 Apple pie with ice cream
1 Kir Royale
2 Single malt whisky
1 Hot chocolate
Ethical Rating:***** J Sheekey states that all fish is of the highest quality and sustainably caught. There is no information for provenance of other ingredients.
Glamour: ***** Affluence has replaced glamour
Value:***** Good ingredients, but lived up to its reputation of being expensive
Will We Return? Maybe, to try supper in the Oyster Bar: It looked far more fun and enticing than the restaurant.
Leftovers for the cat? The Polish waiter didn’t bat an eyelid. Leftover fish reappeared in a box sealed in cling film, but presented in an elegant J Sheekey bag.
Next Time: A suprise at Applebee’s Fish, Borough Market