Sweetings is one of those rare restaurants that’s delightfully trapped in time. It’s the kind of place that you wished you’d been going to for years, where all the staff know your name and where you have your own tankard behind the bar. I can totally imagine my dad having a boozy lunch here when he worked in The City.
Sweetings really reminded us of one of our favorite places to eat in San Francisco, The Swan Oyster Depot. It’s got that kind of American generosity you don’t see in many restaurants in the UK. When you sit down the table is loaded with all the sauces and condiments you could ever want (including Tabasco, which always gets points), there’s a big gravy float full of the house tartare sauce, a plate piled high with buttered brown bread, and a load of lemon wedges.
I’m not going to give you a puff piece about the food. It’s not that it’s not good, but neither is it exceptional. It’s unfussy, retro comfort food. But Sweetings is definitely one of those places that is greater than the sum of its parts. I ordered the Louisiana crab cakes to start with, followed by the scampi and bacon. The missus had the Whitebate and the fish pie. The crab cakes were probably the tastiest thing I ate there. A good mix of white and brown meat, nicely spiced and fried. The scampi were big chunky prawns, again fried, and served with a satisfying rather of bacon. The Whitebate portion was huge, enough for two, and just like Whitebate should be.The fish pie was a bit sloppy and under-seasoned, but once meddled with was tasty and full of fish and flavour. We rounded off the meal with some lovely strawberries and ice vanilla cream.
We left full and happy, but as we sat down early (around 12ish) the restaurant was pretty quiet, so we missed out on the buzz that I’m pretty sure it gets when it’s full of jolly boozed up city workers. But we’ll definitely be back for a second helping and will opt to sit at the bar. I just hope it doesn’t get modernised in the meantime.