Lobster and Ladies Lunch
Monday, 30 November -0001

Lobster and Ladies Lunch

All ladies deserve the occasional lobster for lunch, says Sam Taylor

Written by Sam Taylor
They say that lunch is for wimps, but it is also for ladies who work very hard. Family, friends, work colleagues – sometimes it’s good to sit down and not get up again for a very long time. In medieval times, lunch would be an all-day event, gently morphing into dinner. By the time Rock House was built in 1835, afternoon tea had become something of an institution, one fully embraced by Jane Austen, who used it to fill the gap between slices of cake for breakfast at 10am and steamy visions of candlelit heroes over the dinner table.

Last weekend some of the ladies from The Lady braved the blustery storms Kath, Andrea, Melonie, Gillian, Gill, Irene and Dorinda joinedand joined VG Lee, Micra Mary, Alastair Hendy and our very own romantic hero, the unbelievably fit 93-year-old Oliver Waldren, for a leisurely afternoon of seafood, chips and cheer. Half of them stayed the night, several danced to the dulcet tones of Abba and one found herself taking a solo whiteknuckle ride on the funicular railway.

The success of the lunch owed much to the prowess of the Hastings fishing fleet and Johnny Swann, their man on the land. Like his father before him, Johnny dishes out the local crustaceans to day trippers and seasoned holidaymakers from his stall on the front. He gets up at 4am every morning to prepare the seafood salads from scratch, clean up the winkles and whelks and jelly the eels. It’s a dying art. Last year he decided to sell the business, but was persuaded out of it when his son said he’d be heartbroken to go past the stall and see the new owner with plastic cartons of pre-prepared goods on sale.


On the day of our lunch, Johnny was waiting for the lobster catch to come in and putting the finishing touches to the dressed crabs – a fiddly task for £5 a crab. The lobsters eventually arrived at 11am; by 11.30 they were in his huge pot on the stove; and by 1pm they were cracked and ready to eat on my dining-room table. From shore to door, it is difficult to imagine a meal with fewer transport miles.

As an added treat, Alastair served up his signature starter of celeriac and local brown shrimp and ‘art-directed’ the seafood for the snaps. I’d like to say it was all washed down with a local Sussex wine, but quantity prevailed over quality and we had a cheap French white – we took the taste away with a rousing chorus of Waterloo.

Next week: Woodpiles

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