April is always a shocker of a month for our family as there are three children’s birthdays in that month. They are now all getting to the age where running around like a blue-arsed fly in an indoor playground seems old-hat and the allure of taking friends out to a restaurant is much more exciting. The trouble is its so darned expensive.
Birthday number three arrived and the call went up to go to Smith and Western, an American themed restaurant in the old West train station in Tunbridge Wells. On booking we had been advised to go for the belly-buster for the birthday boy, which more about later, but this entitled him to a cowboy hat which, even at sixteen, he was chuffed about.
The place was heaving, it was a Saturday night, and the efficient but charmless staff were buzzing around the tables like well drilled ants. There are some odd things about this place that don’t quite add up. There are free monkey nuts in the bar – that is a good thing. I wanted a pint of lager. I couldn’t get a pint of lager, but I could get half a pint of lager or a two pint jug. That is not awesome, just dumb.
The price points on the menu are relatively high, so it was with some relief that our two younger children opted for the very reasonably priced children’s menu at £6.95. The key “wow factor” is that kids get unlimited soda and, since our youngest drinks like a Glaswegian shipyard worker on payday, meant that the credit card wouldn’t squeal too much. This allowed the sixteen year-old to have one of the home-made steak burgers at an eye-watering £11.95. I’ve been to places in Green Lanes in London where a meal for two could come well under that, but it was a birthday so who’s complaining? Er, me.
Portions, as you can imagine, were huge, as typically uninspiring as American food can be but well appreciated by all. At Smith and Western you are not exactly living life “on the edge”. Then the belly-buster moment. Out it came accompanied by several members of staff singing Happy Birthday (somewhat morosely I might add – it was probably their twentieth of the night….) , a huuuuuuge glass vase of chocolate mousse with smarties and a firework in the top. Needless to say it was unfinished, although a number of spoons were handed out for everyone to pile in.
So, a good place for a busy, noisy celebration where nothing is too demanding, but not a place for a quiet reflection on the power and ethereal beauty of food. OK. April 2012, M