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Launch of Sabrina's one-to-one private cookery tuition Guest critic on Gordon Ramsay's 'F-Word' series finale Organised Top Chef Charity Banquet for Haiti raising £70,000 for 'Action Against Hunger' Seasonal Food & Recipe Writer for 'Blue Tomato'

Winner of Channel 4's 'Come Dine With Me' (West London) 'Bronze' winner in professionally judged 'AA Home Cooking Competition 2009' Appointed resident cookery columnist for Foodepedia

Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Japanese Rice Risotto with Miso, Lemongrass and Scallops

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Seasonal Penne Mediterraneo

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Persian Split Pea, Dried Lime and Lamb Stew

Monday, 24 August 2009


No stranger to Sand M Café, I arrive and wait at the sign that asks patrons “Please wait to be seated”. A flurry of waitresses shuffle past me as if I was invisible. Two other diners walk in and are shown a table. I keep calm but interrupt the conversation of 3 waitresses standing inches away from me, who seemed to be startled by my presence as if to suggest I had crept up on them, and I ask to be seated. They walk me downstairs into the stuffy, air-less basement. From one empty room into another empty room and offer me possibly the worst table in the house, right opposite the volcanic temperatures of the Chef’s pass. The rickety fan in the corner of the room is doing very little to aerate the room. I decline that table as ask to be seated in the previous room and I’m shown a small table against the wall adjacent to the bottom of the staircase.

The words “Hello Lady” greet me as my upbeat Scouse waiter welcomes me. “What do you fancy?” he chirrups. “Ooh, perhaps a drink first?” I nod and order a Diet Coke. He yammers on a little more… “So you ready to order then? Know what you fancy?”. What I fancy is you stop chatting in my ear and give me at least 20 seconds to scan the menu to choose my lunch. “Shall I give you a minute then love?”. Yes please, I reply. 2 minutes later, he is back “Have you decided what you fancy?” Grrrr.

As I’m nursing a sore head from the previous nights partying, I decide to go for a steak and ale pie with mash, baked beans and gravy on the side. I couldnt possibly leave without having a sausage or two, so i chose two varieties, the classic ‘Lincolnshire’ and the rather quaint ‘Steak and Marmite’. My food arrives in less than 10 minutes, which was great as I was starving. I take a honking great dollop of Coleman’s English Mustard and prepare to tackle my sausages. The first bite, without mustard, of the Lincolnshire sausage was almost alien to me. A dark greyish meat content which made me think it couldn’t possibly be made of pork. The Steak and Marmite, was not any better, in fact it was worse. The salty character of the Marmite was subtly evident, but it was rock solid and as crude as it sounds, looked like a rather poorly-filled condom. The casing was disappointingly not a natural casing and where the sausage meat had not fully filled the casing, there was baggy bits of clear plastic casing, which just made it so much less appealing and gave it that 'baggy condom' effect. What a complete and utter let-down. Still, it could have been far worse… I could have chosen the ‘Steak and Marmalade’ sausage. God, what were they thinking? It’s the kind of ‘wrong-on-so-many-levels’ combination that makes you think they ran out of seasonings, looked in the cupboard and though “Oh look… Don’t panic, we’ve got Marmalade. We can use that!”

My steak and ale pie was pretty good though. A nice light, crispy and flaky puff pastry casing, housing generous chunks of tender cooked beef in an ale gravy. It’s a bit ironic that the pie is good, when the place is supposed to be famous for sausages! (S&M standing for ‘Sausage and Mash’) My pie was served with a very stingy portion of mash and my side of baked beans contained two rogue peas in them, all topped off with an authentic slap-dash glug of gravy, which in true ‘east-end-caff’ style trailed off the plate. Lovely jubbly, as Del Boy would say!

Having finished my food, I wait (and wait and wait) for someone to clear my plate. The whole time, waiters are running around like headless chickens in the now hectically-busy restaurant. Inconsiderately jumping down the staircase, resulting in a horrendously loud thump that shakes my fragile and hungover head to its very core, scaring the neighbouring table of tourists half to death. With the absence of my waiter and after about the fifth thunderous thump, I can begin to feel myself consumed with rage and I finally manage to grab my waiters attention by shooting him a furious look and request the bill. He keeps me waiting for 5 minutes, then another 10 minutes whilst I wait for him to stop chatting to other patrons. When presenting me with my bill he says “Oh and just to say that we don’t add service charge to your bill here at SandM” in order to ensure he gets a tip! What a flaming liberty!

Perhaps if my psychotically chipper waiter hadn’t spent the entire lunch time gassing to every single diner like they were life-long friends, service would be greatly improved. I found it ironic that he was conversing with the table behind me and he was actually recommending ANOTHER restaurant to them! “The food is great, they put a big slab of meat in front of you and its all you can eat at £22.50 per person!”. Still, I leave a 10% tip (and not my normal 15%) and get out of there.

I used to really like these quirky little cafés but hand on heart, I shall NEVER step foot into that branch again. If you are going for the sausages, I would say don’t bother! There is nothing quirky, fun or cheap about these little cafés, for £8.50 for a standard main course and £3.00 for 2 extra sausages, I know I could get better value elsewhere. Which is EXACTLY what I shall be doing next time!

If you want PROPER sausages that are top quality, reasonably priced and taste great, visit: http://www.simplyrealsausages.co.uk/

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