The Social Life ‘Sixty-One Restaurant’… The Simple Things
It was always going to prove a little harsh, but as a child who travelled all around London in a sixteen tonne lorry ( see previous post for details ), I had always discarded Marylebone as a bit of a faded state. Very similar to Shoreditch actually, ( again see previous post ). I remember my dad bombing up the A501 ( or Euston road, whichever you prefer ) taking no prisoners. When he was behind the wheel he was king of the road ( or the devil in disguise) (1) and if you got in his way.. To use the words of Mr. T from the A -Team, ” I pity the fool “.
We used to play a game, well, it seemed like a game at the time. Now I look back it was just a parent doing his upmost to keep his child occupied, while taking his and probably a few other people’s lives in his hands. I loved watching “The Sweeney” as a kid, ( come on, who didn’t? )… I adored the swagger of Jack Reegan, played by John Thaw. The Sweeney, or The Flying Squad were proper old school. Hard as nails, Jack Reegan would spend his time thrashing around in his 3.0 litre Granada chasing baddies with sidekick George Carter ( Dennis Waterman ). So cool in his brown suit was Reegan. The first real icon in my life along with Elvis Presley. Elvis wasn’t a choice though. Like some are forced to pick a specific team because of family loyalty, for the Rollos it was Elvis or you were out of the door…hmm, I wonder how many Elvis songs I can fit into my blog!
Our game consisted of me shouting “Get him Guv’nor” and then my dad driving like a deranged lunatic to try and catch the car in front, that had unwillingly and unknowingly become our highly sought after criminal of the underworld. It was fine and good fun when dad was in his car, coincidentally a two tone 3.0 litre Ford Granada, but when he was in his truck it was sometimes a bit, let’s call it nervy. He was an excellent driver don’t get me wrong, but there were times when I shut my eyes and hoped for the best. It wouldn’t be too far off the mark to think he did too. Always know the width of your car my uncle Ged would say. In my old mans case it was the same but with a… “And if you don’t, make sure the kerb doesn’t damage your tyres”. I remember that game very well, in fact it’s always on my mind. (2).
Heading out from East London we would have passed through Kings Cross, onto Euston, across Baker Street heading towards Edgware. I personally must have undertaken that journey with him at least a hundred times. I’d always pick out Madame Tussauds, and for some strange reason Warren Street tube. I never really took any notice of Marylebone though. It just seemed a bit, well dull I suppose. My cousin actually got married at the Marylebone registry Office not that long ago. I never even knew it was there. Lovely old building.
Having said all that I found myself thinking isn’t Marylebone High Street lovely!… Those were my thoughts as we, ( GB and myself ), coasted along the busy pavement looking for the newly opened Oliver Sweeney shop. I wanted to buy a pair of their blue suede shoes. (3). Sorry, promise – ish that’s the last one, and in fairness they did have a cracking pair of said Rebecca’s ( see below if puzzled ). I can see you lot ( all 6 of you….I’m being optimistic aren’t I ) thinking he is definitely going to put more Elvis songs in. I’ve said I won’t and I mean it. So dismiss your Suspicious Minds…. ( couldn’t resist that one )…We were actually taking a pair of shoes back. With Christmas decorations still up and the sun fading into night, the area had a real village feel to it.
We had a quick beverage in a pub next to the shop to get warmed up and then popped next door into Sweeneys. It’s an extremely tidy little shop. The staff are so helpful and friendly. It’s not like popping into Shoe-zone where a 17yr old, chewing gum and listening to his or her iPad greets you with a ‘What d’ya want?, I’m here because I have to be ‘ attitude.
I briefly met the manager of the Oliver Sweeney shop, Ian, at “Off The Rails” last year. OTR was a collaboration of various brands/designers brought together to showcase the best of what London could offer the discerning gentleman, and me. It was from what I saw of it an overwhelming success, with the biggest names such as Lyle & Scott, to the designers that are maybe still awaiting their mainstream breakthrough, for instance Marcus Lupfer. My apologies to Marcus if I am doing him a disservice. If it’s any consolation Mr. Lupfer, your dartboard jumper was my favourite item at the show over the three days.
They say the devil is in the detail. Having met Ian in October you can imagine my surprise that he actually remembered me when I got to the counter. I may have a memorable boat but it’s not that inspiring. Put it this way, I wouldn’t want to remember it!… I’m joking. I’m lovely really. After having a brief chat about the newly opened shop, shoes and football, ( I love the fact that they take time to stop and talk as opposed to treating you like a number, workers at Office take note! ), the shoes were refunded and handed back. Purely for service alone though I will be shopping for shoes at OS for the foreseeable. In fairness they don’t knock up a bad pair Rebecca’s either. My own interpretation of rhyming slang. Rebecca Loos = shoes.
GB loves a pair of pumps. I tried to get her a pair of Sweeney’s for Christmas but alas she has quite wide feet so they were just too tight. They aren’t wide like a duck has feet. She doesn’t waddle everywhere with her bright orange flippers shining in the sun. Neither is GB known for her capability of doing a 100 metre burst in a park pond at the first sight of stale bread. They were just uncomfortable. Talking of which what is a ducks stroke called?.. Im not asking about if they have a seizure, I mean when they swim. Dogs paddle, what do ducks do?
During our time in the pub both GB and me were starting to get hungry. Purely by luck and Twitter reference I knew we were close to a restaurant that I wanted to try out. Using my ‘now regularly advertised’ favourite current app OpenTable, I went straight on and within a minute, had booked a table at Sixty-One Restaurant for 17:30. Easy as skinning a cat, not that I’ve ever skinned a cat, or a rabbit. I would go as far as to say the closest I’ve come to doing either is opening a tin of salmon, once. I broke out in a sweat doing that!
Now, the restaurant. Sixty-One. Part of the Searcys Group (which owns London’s Gherkin amongst other things), it’s a beautiful looking restaurant tucked out of the way around by Portman Square. Might I add with its Christmas lights the square looked rather spectacular. We entered via a few steps into a very light and relaxing restaurant. Loved the first impressions. Definitely a place for Valentines day, this will be a hit for anyone wanting a romantic dinner or lunch. It was early doors but I was going to enjoy this. Ashamedly I didn’t get to try out the Champagne Bar of which I have heard wonderful things, mainly from The Foodaholic, who is worth looking up for a ‘proper restaurant review’, but that’ll have to wait for another day.
We were seated by the window. In fairness we had the choice of any table as I think we were the only ones dining. Not a bad thing sometimes but it can also lead to the diners being rushed. I’m pleased to say this wasn’t the case. Marion, our waitress was extremely attentive without being in your face. Glasses were filled as and when necessary and it was very hospitable. I know it should be but in my experience it doesn’t always work out like that.
Food was ordered and a glass of sparkling English rosé was very welcoming. The Balfour rosé was just about as dandy as they come as liquid refreshments go. With those put away we started on a Winchester Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. Is it just me that thinks that all the best Sauvignon Blancs tend to come from our Southern Hemisphere compatriots. Is there anywhere to rival it?… It certainly hit a notable spot and as Marion appeared with the starters I was feeling rather cosy. It could have been the alcohol though.
i should also mention the Sixty-One breads placed on the table. If it’s not available to buy at this moment in time I’m positive that it will be in the near future. Marmite butter. I do love a bit of bread, but this wasn’t just your run of the mill Hovis. This was bread made by the hands of a bread architect. If there isn’t such a thing there should be. Married with THAT butter. Ooooh – Weeeee. Warm bread and Marmite butter is the very best thing in the world. Slightly exaggerated possibly I grant you but you get my point. Just thinking about it is making me hungry. Lets move on…
Beetroot Salad for GB, Pig on Toast for yours truly. If you read the info on the website it states clearly, no smudges or foams, just big bold flavours and sumptuous indulgence. As GB’s plate was set in front of her it certainly said WOW! It looked very impressive. It also ate as per the description above. Clean and simple flavours put together with a deft and subtle touch. I did love the fact the she claimed to be able to ‘knock this up’. It is true that it was salad leaves, beetroot and Cashel Blue cheese, no-one was denying that, but what the chef does with it separates the very good from the ‘Amazon prime’ of chefery. My Pig on Toast was pretty near the top end of the tree as well.
The mains consisted of Braised Beef Shoulder for little old me, and wifey heading straight for the ‘Last Turkey of Christmas’ option. We were eating from the festive season menu and she was determined to make the most of every last drop of Crimbo cheer. I have to say, all equals being equal, that the Beef was out of this world. Serious melt in your mouth stuff. It fell apart as your fork struck it. Not that I was at any time welding a baseball bat at the slab in front of me. I can only emphasise what I said earlier. The simplest of ingredients can have such intense flavours. If I didn’t say that earlier, just pretend I did!.. The party had arrived and the Beef was the DJ. if it was a boxer it would have knocked me senseless.
The turkey was in comparison ‘lovely’, really good, but not in the same class. I’m not a great lover of Turkey. It irritates me that they pester you on the streets to buy Turins for a few shekels. ( Turin Brakes, both the creators of the song ‘Emergency 72’ , and a handy rhyming match for fakes ). We gobbled ( boom boom ) up our mains, and set fair for our desserts. I thought the little taster of GB’s main course I tried was quality cooking. For GB though it just lacked a little something. Tasty yes, front cover of Food Monthly would be pushing it.
That left the desserts. I’m definitely more sweet than savoury. GB is the opposite. She will definitely come back as a mouse, if we do come back that is. Loves her cheese. Having had enough food and wine though GB decided to swerve the sweets. That left the door open for me to dive headfirst straight into a Chestnut Bomb. In plain speak, chocolate, chestnut and orange, but let’s face it, it’s so much more than that. Exquisite springs to mind. It’s difficult to explain without pictures but I’m not a great lover of pictures of food. I understand the necessity but it always reminds me of a cafe in Magaluf or Benidorm.
With every bite another enthusiastic flavour jumped out shouting ‘IM HERE’. Bonkers cooking. Now there’s an expression you don’t hear everyday, ( unless of course you know a chef called Bonkers and he is cooking you up a little cheese soufflé ). I would suggest going to Sixty-One for the dessert alone.
A couple of extra things, if you are still here. I do like the fact that on the back of the menu, there is a list of where the food is sourced from. Secondly, the menu is small. It’s refreshing not to have a choice of twenty eight dishes spread over ten pages. Simplicity being a key word, and there is no doubt it works. I’ve decided against giving scores for the food, service etc anymore. It feels like I’m comparing restaurants which is genuinely not the case. I don’t intend to be harsh or unfair, just give an honest opinion.
The name and number Sixty-One. Now it straightforwardly to most relates to the number of the restaurant in the street. To some football fans though in North London it means something completely different. The blue and white half would relate it affectionately to their greatest ever team, ( in 1961 Tottenham Hotspurs won the League and FA Cup double ). Across the Seven Sisters Road at their bitter rivals Arsenal however it is a mocking reference to Tottenham’s lack of league titles since then. “61, NEVER AGAIN” is a chant quite often heard at The Emirates Stadium.
I will hold my hands up, I belong to the Red and White half. I’m an Arsenal fan through and through. I have two or three friends who have season tickets at White Hart Lane and we appreciate that we will never see eye to eye on some things footy, but honestly I don’t really care a jot for that mob down the road. it’s a horrible place as an Arsenal fan to go and watch football, but then I guess inside the ground that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be. Outside isn’t exactly all hugs and kisses either, but that’s another story.
As much as I dislike our local rivals, I will find it quite difficult to sing that song again now. 61 – never again, I don’t think so. The truth of the matter is I can’t wait to go back!.
Did I mention my friend that moved to the states and took over the helm of a fast food outlet?.. Sadly he didn’t last long. That was the end of his Kentucky Reign…. Sorry! 🙂