For a working girl it is always hard to find time to eat before London’s early (in my view) standard theatre opening curtain time of 7.30pm. What’s more I am not the sort of person who can wait until after 10pm for their evening meal. Clearly I struggle when I am in Spain but that is another story. The limited time frame I have available for pre theatre dining meant that I was delighted to find that the West End institution J Sheekey is right next door to the theatre where Madame de Sade was playing so I could actually have a proper pre theatre meal with the lovely Lucy and there was no need to rely on eating pringles at intermission as a dinner substitute.
The newly opened oyster bar was completely full but there was space for us to squeeze in to the bar for the restaurant proper. The feel is very old school and clubby reflecting J Sheekey’s history that dates back to 1896. It is wall to wall mahogany decorated with black and white pictures of theatre luvvies on the walls. We hooked our handbags under our chairs and in the interests of speedy service embarked on a series of starters to share. I do love a seat at a bar whether eating or drinking as it is never an issue getting a waiters attention and there is always so much to check out while you are waiting for your meal such as the J Sheekey way of concocting a Bloody Mary.
Warm crunchy baguettes arrived at the counter with a pat of golden butter to occupy us while we waited for our meal and tried to work out the premise of Madame de Sade. Clearly the play would be about sadism but how would that involve Dame Judi Dench? A mystery. Our orders arrived in a simultaneous flurry which was perhaps not ideal but in fairness to our waiter we were on a tight timetable. To start the Gem Heart Salad boasted crisp green leaves scattered with walnuts and splodges of blue cheese. Just the right amount of decadence to enliven rabbit food. It is hard to resist the chips as a side which are golden, crunchy and served piping hot.
Our plate of smoked salmon beautifully presented with lemon halves wrapped in muslin could have been more on the generous side but we had no complaints about the quality of the delicate almost buttery folds of salmon. The knockout dish was the squid with no issues about meagre portions here two giant pieces of squid are grilled and served with a slight smokiness permeating the white juicy flesh. An accompanying salad of chickpeas adds an earthy counterpoint to the squid.
Quick as a whip our bill is presented and we stroll next door to the theatre with time to spare to buy extortionately priced tubs of Haagen-daz which seems to have an ice cream monopoly in the West End. J Sheekey isn’t cheap but the food is top notch for a pre theatre supper and it comes served with a slice of West End history.
Details: 28-32 St Martin’s Court WC2N 4AL (Ph 020 7240 2565)