Perfect Pies from Sweeney & Todd’sBy Kim Francis
September 09, 2009
Sweeney & Todd’s is something of a Reading institution. I was first introduced to the place by my husband Darren 10 years ago, when we had just started dating. We’ve been occasional visitors ever since.
From the outside, the place looks deceptively small. Inside is a network of cubby holes, nooks and crannies in which to sit while you enjoy your nosh-up, as well as a large and airy dining room at the rear.
It was a hot day when we visited recently and we were thankful to be seated in the air-conditioned back room, particularly since we were to be tackling Sweeney’s magnificently-proportioned pies – a dish for a cold day if ever there was one.
If you’ve never been, the ordering procedure is unique. You can largely ignore the printed menu on your table – your waitress will pitch up with a verbal list of the day’s pies, read out at breakneck speed and at some volume, forcing you to listen carefully and remember what’s on offer. The best technique is to pick your favourite from those that you hear and replace it with a better one as the list goes on. There’s no room for mind-changing here.
Mine was easy. I wanted to avoid the meaty options which left me with one choice – the cheese and vegetable (£5.20), while Darren, normally so indecisive, plumped immediately for the venison and wild boar (£5.20).
Alongside it, you can choose a jacket potato or new potatoes, as well as ratatouille. Chips are also available.
We went for a dish of new potatoes (£2.30) and ratatouille (£2) to share.
Our food came out really quickly and, having not eaten since breakfast, I was eager to tuck in. So I did. And didn’t stop until I’d finished every last morsel. Both pies were customarily massive, with my veggie version mouth-scaldingly hot.
Now, I’m a pastry lover and was more than satisfied with the thick, moist and plentiful pastry encasing my chosen filling. In fact, if they offered pastry pie on the menu, I’d be the first taker. However, my filling was light with a mild cheesiness and the whole gamut of vegetables, including carrots, leeks, sweetcorn, peas, courgettes and broad beans was thrown in.
Darren’s words to describe his pie might have been uninventive – “tasty, meaty, chunky, juicy” – but they were nothing if not accurate. It wasn’t dry, that was the main thing, and it had a fair smattering of veg included in its filling.
The chubby ratatouille was stout and substantial, making a surprisingly robust partner to our pies while the new potatoes came served as soft, hot morsels ready to be doused in melted butter.
I tell everyone who comes to Reading to try Sweeney & Todd’s. It’s rustic and basic inside but that is all part of its charm. Its inclusive atmosphere makes you feel right at home. Oh, and of course, the pies are fantastic.
- Telephone: 0118 958 6466