Sheekey marred by cheeky charge

J SHEEKEY 28-32 St Martin’s Court, London WC2 T: 0207 240 2565 F: 0207 240 8101

COVER
CHARGES were something that happened during the war when there was a
maximum price that could be charged for meals – 5/- for lunch and 7/6d
for dinner, though grand hotels and restaurants in Mayfair were allowed
to levy an extra few shillings cover charge and up to 5/- for dancing
and cabaret.

The abolition of maximum prices should have been the
end of that… but the extra income from ‘cover’ was so attractive that
many places kept charging it.

“Why?” asked customers.

“We
don’t have a minimum charge,” replied restaurants, who did not want
people to come and have bread and butter and soup then pay for the soup
and go.

And there are places where you get wonderful homebaked
breads and a choice of blended butters and olives and crudités, and
although their prices are high, you don’t begrudge payment.

Sheekey’s has a cover charge of £2 per person for which you get nothing: fuck-all squared as we say in the trade.

A
crab paté costs £11.75, a whole sea bass baked in salt and absolutely
delicious (though disastrously filleted)n was £55, with two small
portions of spinach £9.50.

The £4 cover charge (we were two),
which headed the itemised £150 bill, rankled. Apart from that, Sheekey
is wonderful… except perhaps that they allow smoking, have no
smoke-free tables and lack the courage, as did we, of shouting at two
women who blew their nicotine into our really excellent Sauvignon Fume.

It is a deeply professional place: you book, they recognise you, take you to a table, are attentive and mix good drinks.

Should
you have the least doubts about a dish – as I had when my whitebait
were not as crisp as I like them to be – they replace it with aplomb
and without argument. I used to argue when my four customers complained.

The
place is not very simple to find, being situated in a court between
Charing Cross Road and St Martin’s Lane, necessitating a short walk
from where your driver drops you; it is well worth the walk.

You
will find it crowded, with a sprinkling of recognisable people enjoying
their meals and their wine, sitting considering whether to go for the
almond and plum tart or invest in a chocolate soufflé, which is so
handsomely fashioned that it deserves the bottle of pink Champagne you
were looking for an excuse to order.

And the waiters are quality
folk, especially the fair-haired female of the species who comes from
Ueckermunde in northwest Poland, to whom I would have proposed, had it
not been for the dreaded Lady F and the 60-plus years that separate our
ages (mine and the waitress’s that is).

Since August, eating out
has taken on a whole new hazardous aspect: my trusty credit card is no
longer trustworthy as Natwest caused me to be bounced from a casino in
Spain and also denied payment to a restaurant and an hotel.

When
I complained, they said it had been done for my own protection,
apologised and compensated. Then they did it again at a casino in
Austria.

So between offering the Master Card and having it
accepted, I now think of interesting or at least credible excuses – to
the restaurant, to my guests and something for the people at adjacent
tables dialling the Daily Mail’s gossip column and getting £50 for what
will become ‘Ex-MP in financial trouble’.

Opening hours: lunch 12-3pm Mon to Sat, 12-3.30pm Sunday, dinner 5.30pm to midnight.

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