Special Dispatch: Mermaid Restaurant, Hastings
2 Rock a Nore Road
by AA Grill
Saturday morning and hung-over in Hastings. We enter the packed Mermaid Restaurant and leap into some just-vacated seats behind the steamed-up windows, looking out onto the seafront. The Mermaid is a fish 'n' chip restaurant, and one of some repute at that (chalk boards with Telegraph quotes tell you so) and is sat just across the street from a fine array of friendly-looking fishmongers’ stalls. All this fishiness, then, poses a question: does breakfasting in such piscatorial surroundings compromise a breakfast?
But forgetting the food for a bit, this is a distinctly odd-looking crowd. Okay I’m being generous here. These people are ugly in the manner of a Victorian freakshow. It’s actually putting me off the idea of food. They are all stuffing their faces, however, with rather succulent, crispy-looking and outlandishly large servings of cod or haddock and chips. But I’ve always found fish and chips a decidedly post-meridian kind of dish, so it’s the breakfast menu all the way.
Alan and I both choose the 'Breakfast Special', while Fanny has the rather strange bedfellows of poached eggs (perfectly soft and gooey) and fried onions (rather unappetizingly oily) with mushrooms, and Diana chooses scrambled eggs on toast. The specials are certainly good value in a kilos per pound kind of way, the broad plates coming heaped with the usual breakfast fodder (and sprawling in a mass of beans that’s virtually making a break for the door). And toast. Now soaked with beans. Each of the servings is workmanlike – nothing’s missing except maybe a little soul. Or maybe a little sole. And that’s really the problem here. Despite the breakfast trade, and the reassuring broadsheet quotes, in its morning clothes the Mermaid remains a fish and chip shop; the walls are still lined with fish-identification charts and marine-themed tat, after all. As we leave I find myself suddenly jealous of the ugly people sat beside us eating battered cod. I haven’t had what they’ve had, but I still stink of fish.