J. Sheekey

Nicky Richmond tries out the classics at J. Sheekey

I lay my cards on the table and hold up my hands though not at the same time, obviously.

I am not generally a fan of the restaurants in the Caring stable. Don’t get me wrong, they are beautifully run, gorgeously decorated and generally consistent, but there is, to my mind, something about being under the Caring umbrella that brings a little homogeneity and sameness to his restaurants, which I find slightly unexciting. First world problems. I do not expect you to feel sorry for me.

I had been invited by my old friends P & S and given that I had not been for nigh on a decade, I felt that a visit was well overdue and indeed I was looking forward to it, not least because they are such spectacularly good company. And they know their food.

Because they are regulars here, they also know the maitre d’ very well. I did not, therefore go into ooh er, missus mode when said maitre d’ came and sat down next to our table and proceeded to have an exchange with my friends which was, shall I say, rather on tart side of fruity. It’s that sort of place.

The restaurant is made up of a series of smallish, interconnected rooms, all softly lit which creates a cosy and intimate feel, notwithstanding that it’s really rather large. There is also an oyster bar, which I must go back and try. Having only started to eat oysters within the last two years, I am making up for lost time by eating them at every possible opportunity. Except for this visit.

Bang in the middle of Theatreland, the restaurant is a luvvies paradise. You will spot a celebrity. We noticed a number of well-known faces and sitting diagonally across from us was Robert Webb. I would have preferred David Mitchell, but you can’t have everything.

Luvvie-spotting of the calibre to be found here does not come cheap. Whilst you could choose the legendary fish pie, at £15.75 you may, as I did, choose the Grilled Dover Sole. There are two sizes, priced at £41 and £50 respectively. Before service. Not cheap. Had I known I was being treated, (a little advice on surrender of easements – thrilling) I would have ordered differently. Fish pie perhaps.

But before that, I struggled to choose from the starters. I had narrowed it down to just the three. Minted Pea Risotto, with Nasturtium & Gorgonzola looked good. I also considered the Burrata and Fried Courgette Flower and Broad bean salsa. It is of my many and various rules that when courgette flowers appear on the menu, I have to order them. It’s the law. But the siren call of Smoked Haddock Tart, Pea-shoot salad & Summer Truffle steered me off course. My rules are there to be broken, clearly.

Crisp flaky pastry, creamy sauce with chunks of tender smoked haddock, topped with fresh pea shoots and grated truffle, this was superb. I’m still thinking about it, a week on. And it was large. Eating at home, this would have been sufficient for a main course.

And then a properly-cooked firm and fresh Dover sole, with a simple side of Béarnaise and creamed spinach. I could have had the spinach steamed or buttered, but creamed is so much easier to eat, I find. And richer, obviously,

Because P is a man after my own heart, chips were ordered “for the table”. I do love the concept of dishes ordered for the table, rather than having to take personal responsibility for carbicide piggery.

A good slug of (my favourite) Gewürztraminer meant that my ability, nay, desire to deny dessert had been obliterated. I could have had something sophisticated, like the iced Amalfi Lemon bar with biscotti, or something sensible, like seasonal fruit, with sorbet but no, the six year old in me saw the word “popcorn” and I am afraid that it blinded me to all other choices. Salted caramel ice cream, with toffee popcorn and chocolate sauce was a fitting fattening end to a lovely, well cooked, grown-up meal.

In the words of another celebrity, albeit one who could hardly be described as a luvvie, I’ll be back.

Scores on the doors

Food 9/10
Value for money 7/10
Ambience 10/10
Best for: Post theatre A-list action
Worst for: Anyone with no zest for life