As some of my friends know, I like my food and plenty of it (probably too much, although I am trying to cut down). While I like most foreign stuff, I still tend to favour English of the more traditional kind. Because all our family can cook (including my young son) and we are not on the breadline (yet) food is rarely an issue in our house and the need to eat out (unless you include the occasional takeaway and breakfast in Deb’s diner) doesn’t often arise. But like many, I do enjoy eating out with friends and family when the opportunity arises, and yesterday the opportunity did arise – it was the birthday of a member of the family. We decided this was an eating out occasion but determining where we were to go needed a family mini-conference. We considered various pros and cons and in the end the decision was unanimous – we decided that we would eat in Tomassi’s at the bottom of Southend High Street (it has had a High Street presence since 1934). This is somewhere we know well and between us over the years we have visited there many times.

There was a certain irony about the decision though. The prices aren’t the cheapest; the quantities aren’t the biggest and flexibility is not its strong suite (last time my order for petit pois, but without carrots, was turned down). However, we were all happy for this to be the venue for our birthday celebration. As soon as I made the booking, I had already decided what my order would be (prawn cocktail, skate in brown butter sauce and knickerbocker glory, in case anyone is interested). One of my companions opted for the same main as me and the others had variations of steak (ranging from blue to cremated – although on the non-flexibility theme, extremes weren’t accommodated for). We weren’t disappointed though and I can report I was able to substitute new potatoes for chips and get petit pois with only peas. We spent an enjoyable two hours at the restaurant, in a relaxed frame of mind confident that our expectations would be realised, served by pleasant, attentive staff in surroundings that I would rate as among the best I have encountered. The restaurant was quite busy but we didn’t feel squashed, and the clientele were mainly older people. I suspect many would have been regulars, who like us are drawn to eating at an establishment that embodies old-fashioned values of service and the sort of traditional English with a touch of the foreign and the daring food offering (with its ice cream dessert selection continuing to be a speciality) that oldies such as me like. No doubt many have returned based on earlier good experiences.

Its genial veteran owner, Antony Tomassi, was there giving the impression that when it comes to the quality of service and attention to detail the restaurant is renowned for, he will ensure it will continue to be maintained at the high standard he has set and is rightly proud of. While my visits to Tomassi’s are not regular (there are other good restaurants in the town and often it is a matter of horses for courses), typically once or twice in a year, and has been so for many years now (one reason for going in the past was it was a favourite with my late mother), it continues to hold a magnetic attraction. I see no reason to stop making the occasional visit and I am pretty sure that decision will be endorsed by my family.


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