Sunday, 21 February 2010
A Fry-up at Smiths of Smithfield
I'm wandering around Smithfields at 8 in the morning in search of sustenance. I can still smell the blood from the market, but that does nothing to quell my appetite.
I've narrowed it down to two choices: The Hope and Sir Loin or John Torode's Smiths of Smithfield. Daddy or Chips? My heart is saying the H and SL, renowned for its legendary breakfasts of double egg, double bacon, double sausage, liver, kidneys, mushrooms, black pudding, baked beans and fried bread, all washed down with a Bucks Fizz or pint of Guinness (lax licensing laws in this neck of the woods). My head is saying that my heart must be on some kind of kamikaze mission, and so SOS it is.
Industrial warehouse chic aside, Smiths is surprisingly welcoming. I pick a table in the window and look at the menu. And then kind of wish I hadn't - they've used that schtick of pricing everything in "pounds and 1/2 pounds" which jars me immensely - why not say "2/6" or "4s.3d." while you're at it?
I plump for the Number 3 Breakfast of "Bacon, Egg, Beans, Sausage, Mushrooms, Black Pudding, Tomatoes, Bubble & Toast" for "7 1/2 pounds" or £7.50 as it's known to us less rarefied folks, and try to ignore their coy abbreviation of bubble & squeak.
There's a good complement of condiments on the table, which is reassuring, although I'd quite like a bottle of Tabasco as well.
There are also postcards promoting Torode's new gaff in Spitalfields, The Luxe. Stupid name. And are we meant to pronounce it "Loox" or "Lux"? Grrr.
Shortly, my Number 3 Breakfast arrives and, apart from the "bubble", I'm not terribly impressed by its looks. The sausage and bacon seem noshworthy enough, but the cross-section of black pudding is a bit bigger than a poker chip and the egg is the size of a golfball. What manner of stunted chicken laid this one?
Worse still are the slightly shrivelled but still patently raw tomato, and the bread which may have been shown a picture of a toaster at some point. I'm grumpy before a morsel has reached my mouth.
I slice into the poached egg. Smallest yolk in history. I take a bite and suddenly I feel immeasurably sad.
The whole thing's waterlogged; it's clearly not been drained properly and it tastes like brackish melancholy.
Next to me there's a couple - the girl calls the waiter over and says "My fried egg is hard. Can you make me another?" The waiter apologises and goes to take her offending egg, but she blocks him and says "No, I'll finish this one - just bring me another". I'm half-awed, half-appalled by her chutzpah and glumly swallow the other half of my dinky egg.
The sausage at least lives up to expectations, the bubble and squeak and beans are a squishily comforting combo and the black pudding is a brief meaty pleasure. The bacon is salty and flabby, I don't bother with the bread and tomato, and the mushrooms make no impact at all.
Despondent, I look around me. Strange tomes accost my eyes proclaiming that "John Torode's Chicken". Part of me itches to topple the stack, but ennui has set in.
The staff are lovely and cheerful and you couldn't ask for better service - but I feel like I need to pay up and get out before I dissolve into disappointment.
I think I'm beginning to understand why else this place is called SOS.
And it isn't just because the website tries to bury you in livestock.
Smiths of Smithfield
67-77 Charterhouse Street
London EC1M 6HJ
020 7251 7950