My companion rang me ten minutes before we were due to meet at SheekeyÕs to say he had just left his office. He operates on a different clock from the rest of us Š itÕs called: ŌIÕm very important and therefore my time is more valuable than yoursÕ - itÕs like British summer time but a lot later Š in this case - forty minutes later. Thankfully I factored this in and ambled slowly back from the Strand to find him sitting at the bar nursing a glass of carbonated water, which, believe me, had a lot more fizz in it than he did.
SheekeyÕs is the sister restaurant of Le Caprice and the Ivy, though the difference is, despite the irritatingly long-winded automated switchboard that makes you feel like an educated chimp, you can/italics/ actually get a table here. ItÕs not quite as hip as the others Š due perhaps to the many small, inter-connected rooms where the famous can hide away rather than exhibit themselves - but even without the full floor show of strutting celebrities, itÕs supposedly still a hot destination. Frankly, it appeared to be a wee bit tepid the night we were there. Very Guildford - very parents-of-your-friends who play golf and have their hair frosted. And thatÕs just the men.
Of course, we did the early sitting Š the true fashionistas probably donÕt get out of bed until closing time. Oh dear- I have seen the future and I donÕt like it. After the theatre, I donÕt do supper - I do sleep. In fact, even during/italic/ the theatre - I do sleep.
I had booked for 8:00 and been told that they needed the table back by 10:30. Fair enough Š two and a half hours is long enough for dinner. However this was service of the Superman variety Š faster than a speeding bullet and as impossible to deflect. Naturally, we needed a few minutes of perfunctory catch up time, including false apologies for mutual lateness, but they were at us to order before weÕd had a proper chance to look at the menu.
ItÕs all fish, so they might assume youÕd be able to narrow down the choices pretty damn quickly, but all this haste made me panic. My companion suggested that I have the oysters but I can only eat them when thereÕs an R in the month for Reckless and my husband is the one holding the shell. Otherwise it all feels a bit Monica Lewinsky without Bill actually being in the room at the time Š which many, including Monica, no doubt, would think was no bad thing. I suggested my companion have them instead, but he also demurred.
Possibly his reasons were different.
The plateau de fruits de mer as £21.50 per person looked fantastic and the caviar would have been wonderful if I wanted to see my editor Queen laugh hysterically. However, from the vast array of crustaceans my companion chose the excellent razor clams with chorizo and broad beans, which arrived with the punctuality of a dinner guest who catches you still in the bath. Nevertheless, it was a perfect dish if somewhat difficult to manage due to the slipperiness of the shell in which it was served Š like eating from a little canoe afloat in a turbulent sea of garlicky butter. I had dressed crab Š simple, elegant, delicious - and very still.
After our plates were whisked away we asked the waitress if she could give us a little space between courses Š you know Š enough time to admire the cream crackle glazed walls, and the Matisse-like cut-outs on the opaque glass and the other customers Š surely Polly Toynbee wasnÕt the only recognisable face? (She was).
Sure, she said, I havenÕt even called it yet.
Relief - back into the bath with a glass of wine and Martin AmisÕs Experience then - wouldnÕt you know it? Ding-dong Š the guests from hurried hospitality hell are bloody back again. Second course, on the table, and itÕs like youÕve got your mother standing over you saying Š eat it all up right now.
We had also ordered far too much food. My companion had the spare sounding John Dory with girolle mushroom broth. We both thought: a little bit of poached fish, light miso style broth with a few slivers of mushroom floating in it Š what could be simpler?
Is it served with anything, he asked? No, said the waitress. Oh well then Š letÕs have some chips and some spinach and some Parmesan vegetables. However, the fish brought friends - a sweet carrot puree smothered in a cream sauce, which wasnÕt even a vague relative of broth. It was faultless, but defiantly. old fashioned posh food rich. I had the baby lobster salad with wild asparagus and noodles Š again excellent except for the accompanying spiced tomato dressing which was unpleasant in a manufactured Oriental sort of way.
Coffee arrived before the pudding Ša too sharp champagne jelly - and despite all efforts at malingering we were disgorged, outside on to the pavement just after ten. It was no real hardship.
My companion is, after all, a very busy man.