The Cowcross Review

Timeout’s Number 30: J Sheekey
March 9, 2008, 5:06 pm
Filed under: Restaurant, Timeout Top 50 2008

Like its Caprice owned sister restaurant, The Ivy, J Sheekey sits somewhere between Covent Garden and Leicester square, hidden away from the bustling tourist crowds. Its stain glassed windows obscure any clear view into the building with the top hat wearing doorman being the only attention grabbing feature for the passerby. The plain looking entrance transports you to a completely different world where you feel much less in the middle of a central tourist area and much more in a sophisticated dining environment. The reception area is tiny, with waiters bustling back and forth as they take orders, serve drinks and present food to their guests. The dining area appears split into different rooms, continuing to add to the intimate atmosphere.

J Sheekey is best known for its seafood dishes although they do also serve other types of meats if you’re feeling a touch pesce-phobic. Their dishes focus on doing simple and traditional dishes very well with a few modern takes like the seafood curry and basmati rice. As a table, we gorged ourselves on a large variety of dishes. My starter, the cullen skink thoroughly impressed me. It’s a traditional Scottish fish soup with a thick texture and creamy base highlighting the juicy hunks of haddock throughout. Their presentation bowled me over, with an empty vessel placed on the table filled with the soup from a jug and the waiter positioning a shield between the bowl and myself to prevent splashes.

For my main, I ordered the grilled dover sole, on the bone, with my dining companions both ordering the fish pie. I think the mains pleasantly surprised us all, the fish pie full of different sorts of quality fish and topped with a crunchy crust, and the dover sole perfectly cooked and seasoned, its flesh literally falling off the bone. Even with the smaller of the two sizes, the fish still managed to defeat my appetite. We finished the evening off with a round of dessert including an exceptionally alcoholic muscat jelly moulded to look like a tiny life ring, a very sugary spotted dick, and my tart roasted plums served with almond ice cream helping to clean the palette.

Muscat Jelly

The final thing to note is really about the service. Compared to the excellent service I remembered receiving at The Ivy, the waiter’s poor service truly disappointed me. We had to raise our hands twice to call some attention, the first to order some dessert, and the second time to ask for the bill. Our attempts to make eye contact with the three waiters talking to each other obviously failing. They also cheekily charge a £2 cover for each person for the simple bread and butter.

Dining at J Sheekey is worth it for a great place to eat quality seafood, lovingly cooked and presented although they do need to work on their service if they expect it to be worth the 12.5% they charge.


Timeout’s Number 23: The Ambassador
February 24, 2008, 6:23 pm
Filed under: Restaurant, Timeout Top 50 2008

We had a wonderful three course meal here on February 14 (yes, on Valentine’s Day). We arrived slightly before our booking at 7pm, early enough to get one of the comfy corner couches looking back at the other parts of the restaurant. They offer wine by the glass, in half a litre carafes and by the bottle. Considering we both weren’t planning on drinking that much, we went for a carafe of a nice red (I can’t remember which off their vast selection).

My starter of a spinach and ricotta risotto was perfect – creamy perfectly cooked rice and with the soft ricotta melting into the warm body. Be warned the portion is very small and, in reality, a perfect size for a starter. The table next to us mistakenly planned to share one of them.

John Dory Fillets

Next up was John Dory Fillets served with potatoes, capers and some greens. The fish, advertised as grilled, tasted a lot more like they’d pan fried it, and the saltiness indicating that they’d seasoned it just a little bit too much. The combination still worked very well.

The sticky date pudding was a great way to finish the meal off. The pudding was soft, literally melting in the mouth and the swizzle of butterscotch sauce over it wasn’t as sickeningly sweet that many other places make it so. The small scoop of vanilla ice cream also helped cut through the rest of this heavy dish.

I’d definitely come back to The Ambassador. It’s got a great ambiance – casual, yet modern and the attendants are very friendly and best of all, very accessible to us.

Wait to read The Cowcross Review’s final rating.