It's becoming increasingly difficult to get a date, especially during footie season.  Soon I'll have to advertise in the personals - or take a book.  But thankfully there are some football widows willing to forego the pleasures of England v Scotland for food.

 

However Sugar Reef, the new mega-1000 capacity venue in Gt Windmill Street, is not really somewhere you go if you're hungry - especially in its first few weeks of operation with a very reduced menu. The night we went they were between chefs.  Kenny Miller the executive chef had 'been sent to another part of the organisation' and his replacement Gary Hollihead had yet to arrive.  So who, apart from a deep fat fryer was in the kitchen?

 

And do any of their customers care? 

 

Most of them looked young enough to still have lunch passes.  It really does smell like teen spirit, and CK2 - though there is the regulation smattering of short, balding men in suits - you know - the kind who walk up to your cleavage at parties and ask if it has any fags.  Like that's where you keep them.

 

Otherwise it has a curiously dated, but pleasant appearance.  Vaguely Mediterranean - Soho del Sol:  Wicker chairs, potted palms and lots of turquoise and white. It's like an early Duran Duran video.  I should have worn my New Romantics shirt, or a tan.

 

We all had fishy things to start with.  Nina had tuna carpaccio - a good if somewhat dull dish which was desperate for flavour in the same way Simon Le Bon could use another hit record. Rose had shrimp tempura covered in that synthetic-looking batter which forms hard stalactic peaks when fried. While I, god knows why, decided on soft shell crab.

 

They taste wonderful during summer in America.  Heaps of succulent little morsels, fried whole in light batter and eaten with your fingers which you then lick clean.  Unsurprisingly this solitary, homesick crab was stringy and soggy.  They really shouldn't travel too far from the rock-pool.

 

I had lobster to follow, a big fat oily fellow, legs akimbo bathed with unsociable amounts of buttery aoili.  He was sweet and tender enough - but not the kind of chap you want to see too much off.  David Mellor springs to mind, but I can't for the life of me think why.  The accompanying French fries were paler than an Englishman's shins.  Surely the reason God gave us ketchup and long socks. Here, they brought instead a small dish of mayonnaise - very bland de blands

 

Nina had pan fried Yellowfin tuna.  It looked as if it had been dead a fair while and cooked for most of it.  I couldn't see any trace of the frying pan though if ever a dish needed a bit of colour in its unappealing cheeks, this did.  It came with its own band of professional mourners - some similarly grey, flavourless rice and some melancholy black-eyed peas.

 

Perhaps one should send flowers?

 

Rose had liver served with sweet potato mash and which she said was excellent though the mash was tepid.  To be fair, we did visit during the training period where they admitted that they hadn't got everything right and charged half price accordingly. 

 

So that's the bad news.

 

The really bad news is that although they have a dance floor and a man in a booth playing records that I actually recognise, at the time of writing they did not have a dancing licence.  Apparently it's illegal even to jig around in public without one - a huge disappointment.  There we were, three handbags in search of a dance-floor, and me wearing shoes I can actually walk in - especially for the occasion.

 

They also have a cigar bar, though while talking, as women are wont to do, about men, sex and cigars, Nina felt that no one present would know a fine stogie if it stood up and bit them.

 

'I look at men smoking cigars and think - that's my capitalist" she said dreamily.

 

I'm more of a Porsche person myself, but there ya go.

 

The good news is that we had fun in spite of the executiveless food  You can't curse a place for its nature - and this is like a kind of minimalist Las Vegas, complete with kitschy waterfall and paddling pool, but without the slot machines and the Elvis impersonators.  The place is spacious and relaxed with nice Staff and good puddings.

 

I had a key lime pie which had just the right mixture of tart sweetness, not too dense and with none of the awful instant whip texture and flavour you might expect.  Nina had an exquisite pineapple tart with delicious buttery pastry and Rose had a knickerbockerglory which, I'm told, was suggested by Marco Pierre White.  Well, sorry Marco, but this wasn't one of your best ideas, darling.  It had a layer of jelly at the bottom with nasty metallic raspberries - heavily redolent of old aunts and trifles.

 

Ironic? - No.

 

The charming waiter listening to the footie on his ear piece who told me that Scotland had won the match - now that's ironic.. 

 

Signature dish - rib eye steak with HP sauce though expect menu changes under the new chef.