Sweetings, one of London’s oldest restaurants, will introduce a new monthly dinner service, having operated only at lunchtime for the known majority of its more than 100-year history. As tweeted by Bloomberg’s Richard Vines, the seafood specialist will host dinners on Wednesdays 19 September and 24 October.
Sweetings, which is remarkable both because it is old but also because it belongs to an English, less French, restaurant lineage (it’s really a bar that serves fish), counts St John co-founder Ferguson Henderson among its most famous regulars. Henderson’s standard order — scampi and bacon — will not be available at the ‘fish club’ evenings.
However, the selection of dishes, available as courses from Sweetings “Bill of Fare”, will include:
- Starters: Oysters, gravadlax, crab cocktail, whitebait, scallops and bacon
- Fish courses: Fried plaice, beer battered hake, sea bass with fennel and leek; or skate with capers and black butter
- Sides: Chips, mushy peas, lobster mash, samphire
- Desserts: Lemon posset, sticky toffee pudding, jam sponge, ice cream
- Savouries: Welsh rarebit
Henderson’s drink of choice — a black velvet, served in a silver tankard — will be available alongside champagne, wines, and Sweetings’ complete drinks menu.
The reason Sweetings have decided to open in the evenings, following a Valentines Day one-off earlier this year, is, the operators say, because they are “fairly limited to numbers [and have] had some disappointed people. So we did another couple and with a summer break we are beaten down by requests from Canary Wharf/West End workers etc. who can’t make us for lunch.”
Sue Knowler, one of the owners, said to Eater: “[I] think I’ve opened a can of worms but we have so much fun working I think we will have to carry on ‘Wednesday Fish Supper Club.” Before adding that “The City has changed and we like to move with the times but retain our character.”
The City, an area of London whose restaurants have typically served the financial institutions during the week (largely at lunchtime), is changing. In the past 18 months, the Ned, part-owned by the Soho House Group, opened with nine restaurants and bars in the spring of 2017, before the Bloomberg Arcade, on the doorstep of Sweetings, launched in October last year as one of the most high-profile dining developments — with some of the biggest names in town on its books. That Sweetings cannot meet demand says as much about the changing nature of the City, as it does about how the new establishments are serving a market starved of innovation for decades.
In recent history, Sweetings has only ever been available to hire for evening parties or functions. The current owners, whose tenancy dates back to the 1970’s, suspect that that previous operators, rather than not opening for dinner by design, served lunch and “probably carried on until customers left.”