At home, Janet and I would go to dinner with a large group of friends, normally, there were six couples. Some were related, other neighbours and others just friends. We got on well together. Each couple, in turn, would select a restaurant of their choice. We would all assemble at the selected restaurant and have a wonderful evening of eating and drinking of fine wines.
The club operated from the late seventies until the early 90s. In the beginning, these restaurants were a comparatively short drive from our nearest town of Brentwood.
They varied from the Kismet, the Indian Restaurant in Ongar, to the Moat House in London Road, now called the, the Marygreen Manor Hotel in Brentwood and to the Black Rose in Leigh on Sea. The latter was “done up” in the eighties to suit a particular clientele who, it would seem, did not appreciate the change. It no longer exists.
We had few disappointments.
In Southend on Sea, we were extremely disappointed with a self-styled Indonesian Restaurant in or near Clifton Terrace. It turned out that the proprietor had spent some time in Indonesia and he thought it qualified him to present the cuisine of that country.
Having already eaten at the Rasa Sayang in Soho, which served Indonesian food as well as Malaysian. We were all accustomed to Indonesian food at its best and knew that, in Southend, we were being presented with food that the chef “thought” would pass as the real thing. It did not.
The Gypsy Mead at Fyfield, also in Essex, was another one of our regular haunts. It was usually full on a Saturday. We had to make bookings, several weeks in advance. They had a cabaret of high class artists and the food was excellent.
Sometimes, we did venture farther afield to sample what restaurants had to offer. In the centre of London, we visited the Cosmas, Efes, the Rasa Sayang and Simpson’s In the Strand. In St. Alban’s we visited the restaurant Sally Lunn, near to the Roman amphitheatre.
For most of us, this was a thirty mile drive. However, the food was first rate and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
The speciality of that night, in Sally’s, was Skuets of Pork. These skuets were to be found in the Court of Richard II and it should, therefore, be recalled that “kebabs” were in England long before the Middle Eastern takeaways.
Here is a recipe:
3 large peeled onions
800 grams of lean Pork.
8 rashers of streaky bacon
225 grams of button mushrooms.
Salt and pepper, quarter teaspoon of mace, of garlic and ground ginger.
775grams of melted butter
Boil the onions in salted water for ten minutes. Cut them into quarters. Cut the meat into squares of 2.5 centimetre squares. Cut the bacon rashers into three equal pieces.
Mix the spices and seasoning together and rub the mix into the meat.
Make up the skewers as follows: first a piece of meat, then bacon, mushroom and a piece of onion, repeat until there is no more room on the skewer.
Brush over the melted butter covering everything oin the skewer.
These can be cooked on a barbeque or, placed in a pan, grilled for six minutes ion each side.
With these we had, as accompaniment, green beans and boiled rice.
One of the most memorable nights out was at The Rainbow Room. This was situated under the grandstand of Enfield Town Football Club, when their ground was at Southbury road, Enfield.
This had the atmosphere of a typical night club. A large bar and tables surrounding a large stage. Apart from excellent food and wine, we were entertained by a string of first class artists. There were singers, musicians and comedians. The Rainbow Room has long gone and nothing seems to have replaced it.
With two long-time friends, Jean and Terry, we would visit restaurants in the Southend area. We did not meet as frequently with them as we did with the eating club, but it was always interesting. One of the restaurants in Southend was called The Harry Stottle, it was Greek, how amusing. I believe that it is now a Social Club on the Esplanade to the East of Southend.
What we did more often, with Jean and Terry, was to go to Saturday night charity dances in Essex. The highlight of these nights was the arrival of the fish and chip van which would deliver a hundred or so portions of cod and chips and a good number of portions of chicken and chips. This was all for £2. Of course, one had to take ones own booze.