Friday, 22 February 2008

Bona fide pie

There is, in Reading, a restaurant of sorts called Sweeney & Todds.

It is remarkable for a number of reasons, including the fact that it has changed little in the 15 or so years that I have been aware of it, seemingly remaining under the same ownership, with the same staff, and serving the same things. Yes, the prices have changed (upwards, but not by that much), but the portion sizes have not gone down, and the quality of the food is the same as ever.

Their stock in trade: pies.

And what pies they are! Decently sized, well-pastried in the best kind of flaky way, filled with the right balance of thick and pleasingly-tasty filling. Sensible, uncomplicated, honest pies. And even better; rightly priced.

The daily list of pies is read out at the table for every group, and may contain such delights as Steak and Mushroom, Beef and Horseradish, Five Nations, Vickers (named for the butchers that provides the meat), Game pie, Venison and Wild Boar, Cheese and Vegetable, Steak and Oyster, Chicken Tikka, Chicken and something or other...too many to remember after a pint or two from the bar. Besides, tradition dictates that someone in the group must ask what the third one was, to the endless amusement of the serving staff.

Add some potatoes and a side of vegetables (half and half cauliflower cheese and coleslaw is always a popular choice) and you have a meal fit for a king, queen, tsar, emperor.

The place itself is, simply, unpretentious. The walls are interestingly odd, the seating areas small and tending towards the cramped side of cosy. But no one cares, because the place continues to do what it has always done; serve that basic human need for pie. And how!

Better yet, the pasties and pastries and pies themselves are available to buy cold, to take home, for half the price in the restaurant. Who could ask for more?

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