Beachcomber

Greenwich Church St

I confess that until about two weeks ago, I’d never set foot in this place. There was just something about it – part tourist tat, part seaside caff – which is fine on Southend Seafront, less fitting in the middle of Greenwich. Outside, dodgy paintings of seafood and a couple of sad-looking palm trees boded ill for the interior.

But in my quest to find out what every restaurant in Greenwich is like, it needed to be tested, so, after my mum and I had sat for a good fifteen minutes in Bar du Musee being eyed by, but not not actually attended to by two waiters (perhaps we didn’t look like the ‘right’ kind of diners) we left and determined to try something else. My mum’s not that easy to please, liking ‘British’ food – i.e. nothing spicy or garlicy, so fish and chips seemed the best option. Along that little bit of Greenwich Church St there are at least three chippys, but I wanted my mum to be able to sit down and, let’s face it, who hasn’t been just a little bit intrigued by Beachcomber on the corner?

It’s minute (well, downstairs, at least)and choc-a-bloc with genuine kitsch – so very uncool that it’s almost back to being so. Dark blue anaglypta dados and white-painted walls underneath a jungle of rubber plants, dodgy ‘oil paintings,’ mirrors, fake stuffed fish and, when we went there, groaning under cheap red and orange tinsel & fairy lights. The music was much the same – Christmassy, of the Slade variety. The paper-covered tables are crammed next to each other, and, since it was lunchtime, there wasn’t a spare seat. Clearly a lot of people like to go to this place for lunch – and that’s always a good sign. It could have been claustrophobic but actually it was all rather cosy.

We were lucky in that as we walked in, a table became free, and an effusive manager waved off the previous occupants and whisked us into their vacated seats with a single movement. It was all rather sudden, but after our being totally ignored in the previous place, it was quite nice to get the feeling we were actually wanted. He seemed to be a bit of a double act with the young waiter who was flirting with any woman under the age of 87, and being heartily ticked-off for it by the guy in charge.

The menu card is as big as the place is small. I always find massive amounts of things on menus a bit worrying – it smacks of jacks-of-all-trades, masters-of-none. I was slightly worried that much of it would be assembly-jobs, or reconstituted frozen stuff, so I decided to stick to something simple – the fish and chips.

The portions, like the menu, are huge. I couldn’t see my plate underneath the enormous lump of haddock, its accompanying chips and a walloping great dollop of ‘tartare’ sauce, brought in a dish and doled out by the waiter.

I have to say the food isn’t very tasty. It’s perfectly ok – both portions of fish were moist and with crispy batter, and definitely the best bit. The chips were big, and ok, but not enjoyable enough for me to manage very many of them. The sauce was a bit odd – more like onion-flavoured mayonnaise. But the mugs of tea were pleasingly orange, and it took us a long way to wade through both the tea and the food. The prices are about average.

So. A reasonable choice for a quick lunch in town, but definitely not a gourmet experience. I’m not sure I would ever visit for an evening meal, but I would go back for lunch again sometime – if only for the friendly, seaside-y experience. I had a peek in the upstairs room when I went to the loo – much the same as downstairs, but not open at the moment – presumably it’s reserved for the summer visitor influx – for there’s no getting away from the fact that it is mainly a tourist joint.

If you go, do take a peek at the photo at the bottom of the stairs, of the shop perhaps fifty years or longer ago. It was a fishmonger then, and the barrels of different fish and blokes in aprons are well worth seeing.


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