Second thing to know about Sweetings is that it is a very City restaurant and opens accordingly. Opening hours are 11:30am - 3pm Monday to Friday. No dinner service at all, no weekends. While they have probably owned the freehold since it cost a pound and two shillings, the economics of the place must nevertheless be quite challenging being open just 17.5 hours per week, 17.5 hours only in which to make enough money to pay all the bills and make a profit on the invested equity while situated on a prime City site.
It would make me suspect that prices might be expensive which they are in part. A starter of prawn cocktail is £11.20 for a very average example of the kind, while the mains sees smoked haddock and poached eggs at £18.50 with potatoes £4.50 extra. Nevertheless, plaice fillets (£15.25) and salmon steak (£15.75) are in the usual cost ball park and desserts at £4.50 are arguably a bargain.
The third thing to know about Sweetings is that the food is quite basic. The starters are on display in the window and can be seen below but while the fish is fresh, the 'in the window with cling film on' approach gives off a pre-packaged vibe even though I know it to be otherwise. It does mean however that when you do order, you seldom have to wait long for the food to arrive, the wait staff wander over to the window, remove the cling film et voila. But again, is it a case of knowing your customer? There are many diners here who will be on a strict one hour lunch break and such a rapid turnaround means they can enjoy a mid week 'luxury lunch out' without getting into trouble at work for being late to return.
The fish main course is another simple affair, the fish served with little by way of garnish and no 'fancy' cooking, fish is deep fried, grilled or poached; you're guaranteed not to see a foam (or much else) on your plate any time soon. Puddings meanwhile are aimed squarely at the school-boy nostalgia market, Baked Jam Roll, Rhubarb Crumble, Spotted Dick, Steamed Syrup Pudding. The quality is about the same as that enjoyed at school so they represent an authentic offering.
You don't really visit Sweetings for the food, rather, Sweetings serves a need in a predictable fashion. If you are close by, want a sociable lunch with friends, want food served promptly without too much fuss and with no surprises, Sweetings does the job. Throw in the 120 year history, a touch of nostalgia (for many City workers this will have been one of the first places they ate at following their arrival in the Square Mile) and the character of the place itself, and it's easy enough to make returning a habit. The food is nothing at all special but I'm guessing that when the owners see a full restaurant every day, they have little incentive to experiment with change.
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