View From The Hill: Nicholas Lezard

I don’t know what your views on the bin strike were, and here is no place for a political argument, but even if you’re sympathetic to the striking binmen there comes a point when you’re tired at looking at piles of rubbish, and so it becomes necessary to go down to the seafront and look south. The sea, thank goodness, is free from visible bin liners bobbing up and down in the waves (although it is perhaps only a matter of time).

There are few things as refreshing as a walk along the beach on a bracing autumn Sunday, the wind blowing hard from the south-west and the sun blinding off the sea. It was at some point as I was passing the British Airways 360 pole that I realised I had a craving for oysters and a glass of white wine, eaten al fresco while looking out to see. (I happen to believe that wine is red, not white, but there is a time and a place for everything.) I had recently been paid for a little bit of work and thought: damn it, I’m going to splurge it all on a treat for myself. And oysters it had to be, because they’re one of those foods that are best eaten outdoors in challenging conditions.

I walked along, pausing by the menu boards of the restaurants along the promenade. The first one I came to said, at the top, “Oysters 4.5”. What did “4.5” mean? I went inside and asked a waiter. My worst fears were confirmed: it meant £4.50 – per oyster. So this was one of those restaurants that consider it vulgar or unstylish to use a pound sign or zeroes. Perhaps there are some lunatics who think “4.5” means four and a half pee, but it doesn’t, and I carried on searching.

As I feared, this was by no means an untypical price along the promenade. I trudged back westwards with a heavy heart.

And then I remembered the Regency. Even though I have been living here for years, I haven’t eaten there yet. I looked at the menu. Oysters were £11 – but you got six of them for that. A plate of whitebait, which I haven’t eaten in years, was just under a fiver, a glass of white just over. Bingo.

Readers: it was marvellous. This is not a restaurant review, so I won’t go into detail, but when ythe waiter came up to clear my plates and asked me how it was, I replied: “that was even better than I thought it was going to be, and I already thought it was going to be pretty good.”

He beamed at me. “That is the right attitude,” he said. For some reason, his Italian accent (the owners are Italian) added to the charm of his remark. I ended up rounding off the meal with a coffee and a small brandy so the experience wasn’t quite as cheap as I’d planned, but it was very bracing outside.

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