On the other side of the window I see speedy City workers at lunch, running to High Street coffee chains, waving their money at naff, pre-packaged sandwiches and trendily titled bags of crisps. On my side of the window not only am I warm and toasty, nursing a mug of steaming hot builders tea, but I am reviewing a menu so scrumptious I have no idea which dish to choose.
S&M is a small chain of modern restaurants carefully located around London (Islington, Portobello, the O2) and this new addition in trendy Smithfield is busy and crowded with a wide range of clientele. The décor resembles an old-style British café with its red and white gingham tablecloths, dark wood chairs and single sugar dispensers. Everything is shiny, new and comfortable and the atmosphere is vibrant.
The waiting staff are busy attending to those already seated, yet still welcoming the newies at the door, not standing idly to one side looking bored, like I’ve seen in too many other eateries.
We sit, we muse, we chat, we order; my friend glances at the specials board on entry and leans over to kiss me with joy when she spots the pie with mash and liquor. I opt for the traditional number two: The Great British, which consists of one Cumberland and one Lincolnshire sausage served with bubble and squeak mash, finished with house gravy and a side of mushy peas.
Our table is covered with an array of condiments: beer mustard, Dijon mustard, wholegrain mustard, ketchup. There’s hardly room to place our plates, but when they arrive and we tuck in we are happy and content with the taste (yummy) and style (little toothpick flags to explain what we’ve ordered). The waitress doesn’t even bat an eyelid when my friend asks for vinegar for her mash (?).
The menu is detailed and caters for those looking for hearty fare in a triumphantly British fashion. There are specials (wild boar and pheasant) and traditional sausage and mash templates consisting of meat, vegetarian and gluten free.
Starters – at around £4 – include Welsh rarebit and spiced whitebait. Main courses average at £9 and range from pie, mash and beans, to casserole and braised lambshank. There are salads, numerous hot and cold sandwiches (fish finger and tartar sauce, fried egg), and an afternoon tea spread of homemade scones with cream and jam or tea cakes (£2.95).
We are still sitting an hour later, stuffed to the brim and with happy faces when the waitress asks if we would like to see the dessert menu (did I not mention it!?). I bashfully confess I’ve had my eye on the specials board which boasts a chocolate sponge with chocolate sauce (£3.95). It arrives with two spoons and I can thankfully admit we didn’t finish it all, largely as it stuck to the roof of my mouth just like my old school dinners once did.
All in all S&M is a definite must if you need a warm and hearty meal. Alas on my tight gastronomic budget it may be a little pricey for a quick lunch, but the good news is that the joint is fully licensed; perfect for lining the stomach before a night out, or just a relaxed munch and slurp.
50 Long Lane
Tel: 020 7606 6591