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Food

Lord Sugar’s castle

22 September 2012

9:00 AM

22 September 2012

9:00 AM

Alan Sugar’s Turkish restaurant, Sheesh, is in Chigwell, a land of soft lawns, hard money and fairies who count it. They come out when footballers beep their horns, so to speak. If it sounds disgusting, it isn’t really — Essex is simply Surrey with a makeover and thinner legs. Sheesh is a huge, white, half–timbered Tudor ex-pub, sitting, or rather screaming, in a photogenic lane begging for folk tales starring shouty TV lords. It is one of the most beautiful restaurants I have ever seen, because I have no taste. It is fantastically fake, Camelot crashing into Monaco; I suddenly imagine Sugar on a horse jousting with a broken Amstrad computer. Yander lies the kebab house of my fadda. Etc.

You buzz to enter the car park — whether you can enter on legs I seriously doubt — and if you look rich enough to the white cats manning Sugar’s gold-plated monitors (I am guessing) they let you in. And it is lovely, a fairyland for all the monetised fairies and their fairy credit cards and fairy needs. There are meandering trees, lit with swaying lanterns, angry statues (warriors and lions and a giant cow, protecting you from over-regulation, maternity pay and tax increases) and a car park that is simply a posh-car trade show. You need a minimum of a Bentley not to look hopeless, and ideally a small spaceship with leather interiors and a bowl for condoms, and Roger Moore, to impress.


It has an interesting back story, which should star Tony Curtis as Sugar and Elizabeth Taylor as Sheesh. Lord Sugar rode to Sheesh in his Rolls Royce Phantom when it was a mere restaurant in Buckhurst Hill. He loved it so much that he bought Ye Olde King’s Head, formerly a hostelry, and stuck his beloved Sheesh in it; if there is such a word, he castle-i-fied his local. What would such a man do for his mother? Sugar is photographed on the Sheesh website, looking weird in sports casual wear, alongside Ray Winstone and Rod Stewart’s girlfriend, who is dressed, inexplicably, as a leopard.

It is busy inside, heaving with thin bottoms and thin nails and thin handbags; it smells happy and lucky. There is no recession here; this is where they hide the money. Such beauty! I didn’t know Sugar had romance in him. I always imagined him sitting in his giant Playmobil castle and shouting at his wife, wearing a giant watch, but Sheesh shows the pulsating heart of a great corporate lover. It is exquisite; mirrors, chandeliers, black loos, pot plants, mirrors. All this is normal for the Essex Golden Triangle. The Sugar Hut (no relation), the hottest nightclub in the shire, is a medieval house filled with glitterballs. And why not?

The woman are live action photographs from Grazia. They have huge heads, made bigger by their pulsating hair; they are dyed and fierce, with insanely defined eyebrows and they go yakky, yakky, yak. All the men, sexual orientation aside, ‘do’ gay. Chests are waxed, shirts are mad and hair is neatly fashioned into peaks with ‘product’. (I know you do not know what product is. Never mind.) I see a female cast member from The Only Way Is Essex, a reality TV show about young, rich people from Essex crying and shouting and being photographed by the newspapers without their consent. She is tanned, big-headed and morose, dining with her celebrity hairdresser; two of the TOWIE boys text and smirk behind her, dreaming of Maseratis.

The food is an aside to all this drama, and it is excellent. Kebabs are soft and sweetly charred, fish is luminous and flaky, salad is lemony and bright. (I ignore the temptation to copy the Guardian critic, who pointed at Kalamari and said, ‘You’re fried.’) Alan Sugar made a fairyland. How strange.

Sheesh, High Road, Chigwell, Essex IG7 6QA, tel: 020 8559 1155.


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