Hospitality Awards 2020

Page 30 LUX 2020 Global Hospitality Awards Although the original company was begun by John S. Sweetings in 1830, the Sweetings of today was established in 1889 as ‘Very Superior Oyster Rooms’. Today, probably the oldest fish and oyster restaurant of London has not seen a great deal of change since the late 1800s. Serving lunches that can be chosen from the restaurant’s ‘Bill of Fare’, Sweetings welcomes guests from all over the world and not just businessmen like it used to. However, just like in the days when Toulouse-Lautrec used to enjoy his favourite dish of Skate with black butter in the 1890s, guests are still invited to choose a table amongst the throng of other guests, or perch at the mahogany counter with a glass of Black Velvet – a Guinness and Champagne cocktail created to mourn the death of Prince Albert in 1861 – while waiting for a table. Historically, Sweetings did not take reservations, instead welcoming guests on a first come, first served basis and as a result creating a flamboyant mix of diners that sees businessmen eating next to celebrities eating next to tourists, eating next to guests who have been patrons of Sweetings for seventy years. For Sue Knowler, custodian of Sweetings, this is the joy of the restaurant, which delights in welcoming back customers time and time again. “The atmosphere and eclectic mix of diners is a pleasure to watch as special days are celebrated, new friendships are made and business deals forged,” says Sue. Sue, her sister and mother, Ann, are the most recent in a line of custodians who have proudly Sweetings is the oldest fish and oyster restaurant in the city, dating as far back as to the 1830s, specialising in fresh seafood and service unlike any other. Largely unchanged since the 1890s, Sweetings has played host to famous and non-famous faces alike who come from all over the world to sample the culinary triumphs of Executive Chef, Alex Beck. Sue Knowler, who runs the restaurant with her sister and her mother, Ann, tells us more about one of London’s finest culinary institutions. Sweetings (City) Ltd Fish Restaurant of the Year - London owned Sweetings since establishment in the seventeenth century. Sue’s father, Mr. Barfoot, who sadly passed away in 2019, became the fifth custodian of the restaurant in 2001 when he acquired the pub from the widow of his best friend, Graham Needham, who had successfully run Sweetings since 1979. Just as it did over a century ago, Sweetings’ Bill of Fare offers delicious fish and seafood, much of which is not readily available in other restaurants but Sweetings is able to source fresh from Billingsgate Market. Alex Beck, Executive Chef who brought his unparalleled expertise to Sweetings in 2012, has created a menu that includes fish such as Halibut, Turbot, Skate and more. With a nod to seasonality, this fish is served in comfortingly familiar dishes that have featured on the Bill of Fare since 1890 and in innovative new dishes such as Monkfish with a lentil curry or Grilled Hake with Lobster Mash. The carefully curated wine list provides the perfect accompaniment to any of the dishes chosen. Every member of the Sweetings team, whether they have been there a year, twenty years or forty, takes great pride in the restaurant’s long history which has seen six coronations and survived two world wars. Now, the restaurant is facing one of its biggest adversities yet in the form of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has had a significant impact on the hospitality industry that is expected to last until at least Spring 2021. For the first time in its 130-year history, Sweetings now takes booking and has also reduced capacity from sixty-five to thirty-five so as to maintain social distancing protocols. This has presented Sweetings with a significant challenge in adapting to maintain its unique style and atmosphere whilst prioritising the comfort and safety of guests. Many guests have been fantastically accommodating and have continued to visit whenever possible. However, Sweetings is eager to see all its clientele return to the restaurant soon and believes that the loss of tourism and business in London could be devastating. As such, the restaurant is offering its full support to the ‘Get London Open Again’ campaign which is currently in the works by many operating in the industry. For Sweetings, 2020 was set to be a jampacked year with many bookings for private events and location filming and photoshoots, as well as their takeaway and gift voucher service which can be ordered over email. For now, however, the team is focussing on 2021, eager for normality to resume for the city of London so they can continue welcoming guests for many decades to come. Company: Sweetings (City) Ltd Contact: Sue Knowler Website: