I think it is fair to say that J Sheekey is ‘old school, after all, it’s been around since 1896. The first time round when we visited a few years ago, I remember the place to be discreet with small tables, had a very English feel to it and you really felt conspicuous if you raised your voice above a whisper. That said, the service was impeccable as one would expect from an establishment which takes you back to the Victorian times upon entering.
But what I remember most about our meal then was the food which was so over-seasoned I had to mention it to the waitress as I could hardly finish my main course. The maitre d was kind enough to remove the item from our bill and the manager was absolutely apologetic about our experience, handed his business card over to us and invited us to visit again soon.
And so the years rolled by and we found another fantastic restaurant known for its seafood (One-O-One) which we’ve been to with friends and family who all loved it. But I would sometimes walk-by J Sheekey and get a peek into the dark mahogany interiors and wonder if we should really give it another shot. And so we did.
On the Sunday evening we arrived, there was no doorman to greet us whom I do see on the occasions I have passed by. Perhaps he rests on Sundays. The lady at reception was efficient enough. Our coats were taken and we were promptly shown to our table in the far room of the restaurant. We were then presented with our menus at which point I asked the waiter if photography was allowed (I make it a point to ask at most restaurants I visit). ‘No’ came the swift answer – without an explanation as to the reasoning behind this and ‘It’s written somewhere in there’ was accompanied with an impatient gesture towards my menu.
Not a good start.
Throughout our meal, the same waiter was shuffling around the restaurant like he simply couldn’t be bothered to lift his feet and walk properly. Now, have you any idea how annoying this is in a confined space with wood-flooring, wood-panelled walls and three tables filled out of about 10 tables in our area?
Not the level of service I was expecting, perhaps the food was going to make up for it?
Well, I was unimpressed with the bread rolls offered – 2 bits of white and 2 bits of brown. A starter of razor clams with chorizo and broad beans was not very flavoursome, bordering on bland. In fact the razor clams were over-cooked. The griddled tiger prawns with piri piri butter, tomatoes and parsley was not unpleasant but it lacked perhaps a twist of cracked pepper which could have given the dish a lift.
That said, the special of the day – dabs with cockles and tarragon butter was very well cooked and easy to eat. The cockles were cooked to perfection and carried a hint wine. The signature J Sheekey fish pie was faultless – well seasoned and very well cooked with a mash that was not too rich.
On top of the bill, we paid a £2 cover charge person for an overall feeling of disappointment at the lack of enthusiasm in both service and the food served. Not once did any of the staff ask if we were enjoying our meal or tried to engage us in conversation. Compare this to One-O-One where each time we have visited, the staff took time to inform us of the freshest seafood available on the day and once to even present a king crab to us for viewing! To coin a phrase from my eating companion for the evening – J Sheekey is a perfect example of a food establishment that has sat on its laurels for too long.
Plates for two as above with a bottle of still water and a glass of wine each, circa £100.
Where’s the plate?
28-32 St. Martins Court, Covent Garden, London, WC2N 4AL which is just next to Leicester Square tube station.