Comedian and food-fiend Jessica Fostekew puts her mouth where others fear to tread. A celebration of eating: from posh nosh to kebab shops to stuff that’s been on the floor. This week Jess goes to Wales and eschews vegetables.
My friend Rich and I recently did a bonkers 10-hour round trip to do stand-up in Narbeth, Wales. We were spurred on the long, dark, soggy drive, not just by the prospect of a reputably lovely gig but by the reputably hearty free dinner.
Queens Hall, the venue, is attached to a small cafe/bistro called Sospan Fach. That’s Welsh for little saucepan and it’s as sweet as its name. I’ve now learned it’s the name of a famous Welsh folk song. Upon having a listen, I cacked myself. To the ignorant English earhole it sounds like the chorus goes “die by the sausage.” You can’t name a cafe after that. Christ. But then I looked up the translation. It means “Little Dai the soldier.” Phew. The rest of the lyrics are pretty confusing. I’m pretty sure it’s about a woman who cuts her finger, that gets better, as a cat sleeps for so long I think it might be dead.
If you fancy a laugh here’s a stirring rendition of it by the diabolically named Only Boys Aloud.
I don’t know who choreographed Michael Jackson’s Thriller but they want to scoff their bloody hearts out. I particularly enjoyed the poor young lad with his arm in a sling joining in no more sheepishly than the others. I don’t know if ‘sheepish’ is an acceptable thing to say about a Welsh choir? I’ve done it now.
Right, sorry: food. After a five-hour drive in the rain, you just want to be looked after. You need pepping up with caffeine and to sit somewhere peaceful enough to get your thoughts in order. That’s what we got. There is nothing at all fancy or frilly about Sospan Fach. At school, whenever I went to a certain friend’s house for tea we always had double egg and chips. I loved it. A simple, delicious, cholesterol festival. It was just like that. It felt like being in a cleaner, brighter version of someone’s lounge. I half expected to be allowed to have my tea on my lap and someone turn an imaginary telly on. What a smashing atmosphere.
If someone’s kind enough to give you a free meal, ever, you’re grateful, whatever happens. Here what happened was tasty, filling and comforting. There’s a main menu for in the day with a variety of lovely things on it and a wonderful number of vegetarian options. There’s an ‘event menu’ for the evenings when there’s something on in the theatre. A bit smaller but it included an intriguing nachos with ‘homemade ratatouille and mature cheddar.’
Because we were scuzz who turned up with vouchers we got a handwritten ‘limited edition’ menu. It consisted, I assume, of whatever they had most of. Fair enough.
We could have had a nutrient-and-mineral-packed ratatouille potato bake with salad. We might have picked a healthy and all-good-food-group-covering jacket spud with coleslaw and cheese. Did we choose these sensible options just before needing to be nimble of tummy on stage? No. I had chicken tikka with chips and rice and Rich went for beef chilli with chips and rice. What? You don’t need vegetables with every meal do you? Do you? Oh. Call me a posh twat if you like but the prospect of chips AND rice, is a rare and filthy treat which repressed middle-class idiots like me find impossible to resist.
My dinner was orange, yellow, white and brilliant. It tasted of the sort of school lunch you’d get in the ’80s after PE, which you’d just breathe in. Straight-forward hot mouthfuls of energy. The long grain rice was cooked perfectly. The curry wasn’t home-made but it wasn’t bland at all and had enough going on in it, flavour-wise, to wake my mouth up.
Rich said as much of his chilli. And the chips were lush: deep fried, chunky and crunchy. A few of them were even those really dark, crispy hollowed ones that burst in your mouth like a shard cut off the edge of a perfect roast potato. We lapped it up and left stuffed and content.
The lady working there was friendly and, had I had any cash on me at all, I’d have given her a diolch. No, that’s not onomatopoeic Welsh term for ‘throat burp’. It means tip.
Later, Rich got all the comedians coffees from there and they were delicious too. Strong and smooth, good coffee and well made.
If you’re ever in Narbeth and you’re after some dins somewhere homely then I recommend Sospan Fach. More soul than a chain place, better food than a takeaway and even were you to have to pay for it, it won’t break the bank.
Address: 44 High St, Narbeth, Dyfed, SA67 7AS
Tel: 01834 862 767
Open: 9.30am- 5pm Mon-Sat, Sun 11-3 (not open Sundays in Jan & Feb)
Disability Access: Yes, all on one level. And a fully equipped disabled toilet available in the adjoining (Queens Hall) theatre.
Jessica Fostekew is a writer, comedian, actor, law degree-waster, sister, daughter and beard-fan with an unabashed food infatuation.