I love a busman’s holiday. Even though I had a recent day off work for (the 15th anniversary of) my 30th birthday, I still had to do a restaurant review.
We squeezed in a visit to Longniddry Bents, and parked near the mobile offering from Alandas, who also have a bricks and mortar chip shop in Prestonpans and a gelateria in North Berwick.
First, a walk, just so my other half could get irritated every time a tern sighting made me sing a certain Bonnie Tyler song, and the same for gulls and Cyndi Lauper.
We made it halfway along the shingley beach, then got in the way of the kite surfers’ strings as they tried to drag their canopies, which billowed like Kate Bush in the Wuthering Heights video, into the air.
Enough. We made a U-turn to our savoury-scented destination.
For social distancing, place your order at the counter. You may have to shout, as the combination of the radio playing and Perspex screens make it hard for the staff at the till to hear. Then, move into the next two-metres-apart queue and wait.
Presumably because of the hearing issue, we ended up with way more than we’d asked for. They do the dous-ing for you, and we went for salt and vinegar. (I’m more of a sauce person, and they have that, but I held back, since its acidic loveliness can obliterate all other flavours.)
As the wind was bouncing the kite surfers on the sea, we ate in the car. Some boxes were stashed in the footwell, others on the dashboard.
No Jaws on the horizon, though one of us had a very large portion of haddock and chips (£8.50). He said the fish was juicy, the batter a tad thicker than he was used to, but it was suitably crispy around its extremities. According to him, the chips were winners, especially as there were loads of salty and crispy shards to be scavenged at the bottom of the tray.
I’d deviated from the obvious choice, with battered king prawn and chips (£8).
It was a beast of a meal, with five huge prawns, each the size of a fledgling, threaded onto a wooden kebab stick.
The pale batter wasn’t your sophisticated sort, but more like an oiled and inflatable Sumo suit.
Still, it’s my birthday, and I’ll ingest as much grease as I want.
We also had the chilli and garlic squid (£8), which we’d ordered as a single, rather than a supper, but it had come with – surprise! – yet more of those fat and squishy chippy chips.
These were underneath the main element, which consisted of loads of fishy rings, all coated in an addictive brick-coloured and grooved batter. It had a friable rather than greasy texture, and the salt clung like sand on a wetsuit.
And we had ANOTHER accidental extra portion of chips, gratis, which we took home and reheated for dinner, since we’re classy like that.
As part of this special Day of the Ancients, we also had birthday cake, in the form of an order from Afternoon Tea Ltd (www.afternoontealtd.com) – an exciting furlough project from Ross Snedden, head pastry chef at The Balmoral.
This business is one of the nice things to come out of lockdown, like fire poppies on scorched ground.
They release a limited edition Cake of the Week, which will be delivered to you on a Saturday.
There have been some incredible creations so far, including a spectacular lemon drizzle and a classic strawberry pavlova, but we fell on brownie (£32) week. I always think of this genre of cake as being low rent and dependable. However, this total eclipse of the heart was something else.
It served 6-8 people not through size – Marilyn wouldn’t have fitted inside – but thanks to its lavish richness.
Each of us only needed a sliver of the dense and nutty 65 per cent maracaibo chocolate cake, which was topped with minarets of milk chocolate cream and glamorous tufts of gold leaf. It was like one of Walter Mercado’s cloaks in cake form. Mucho mucho amor.
So, although I’m now as old as the smoothest piece of sea glass, it seems I haven’t lost my appetite for a busman’s holiday.
Gulls just wanna have fun. n
Longniddry Bents, www.alandas.co.uk