Long, long ago, at a time when an iron lady ruled the land, steel came from Sheffield, and strange beings called yuppies accumulated piles of gold, there was a restaurant called the Mediterranean.
It was famous for two things - its outstanding tapas (in fact it can lay claim to be the city's first tapas bar) and the eccentricity of its owners. One in particular, a lady of Greek origin whose name has vanished in the mists of time, used to have the disconcerting habit of holding conversations with customers with her head deep inside a large cupboard on the floor.
But the lunchtime tapas became a magnet for those seeking something away from the norm.
For some reason, I stopped going there. The years slipped by until one day my wife suggested we give it a try again.
The people have changed, as has the decor, but the basic message remains the same. The lunchtime tapas are a must-try experience if you've time for a leisurely lunch when in Sheffield. Rival restaurants and even national chains specialising in this quintessentially Spanish delight sprung up in later years, but few could match the Med. They still can't.
The evening, by contrast, is the time to look elsewhere.
The tapas are tasty, basic, freshly cooked and authentic.
But our return there for dinner was a let-down. What should be simple crab salad was adorned with superfluous, cold, tasteless mussels and emaciated prawns that collapse when you try to shell them. The overall car crash tableau is worsened by the plate being daubed with dubious and uneccessary sauces.
The sole Dieppoise that followed was an epic of overcooking. My first impression was that the fish had been cooked to the point of liquidising. Recalling science lessons at school, I postulated the theorem that it had surpassed that stage and might well be on the point of turning into a gas ("waiter, my main course has vapourised...")
They are trying a bit too hard in the kitchen, adhering to the belief that good cooking requires that dishes need to be studded with completely contingent items.
The reverse is true. The Med is within an ace of being a very good restaurant. If it can learn from its lunchtime success, it'll still be going strong in another 20 years.
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