Who knows why Don’t tell Fred is called Don’t tell Fred? Other than stills of a model with finger to lips (Shhhh!) on several walls, no other details give a clue as to this imperative, or the man in question. Perhaps Fred is a well-connected but sadly bed-ridden neighbor on Sheen Lane, who doesn’t know that ‘Sheen’s Dining and Entertainment Venue’ has opened on the corner. He’s not noticed the late night noise occurring cyclically, (caused by comedians in the week, bands at weekend) but would pull strings at the Planning committee and threaten our licence if he twigged, so don’t tell the f*cker!
Perhaps not. Those of us on the daily shuffle along Sheen Lane cannot have missed the open room on the corner. The live venue is in the basement, restaurant upstairs with bar where occasional men drink the draft Asahi self consciously, the Pig and Whistle presumably being too rough for them.
Our first July visit involved late-Friday-night thirst but no food; it would have been rude to remain in Fanoos much longer, and options were limited to the downstairs bar at DTF or the equally unknown ‘Turtles’. DTF being at the right end of Sheen for us, the vague black door gave way to stairs and the Entertainment Venue: three-dozen sexagenarians violently oscillating to ‘Baker Street’, chewed up live by what seemed to be one of their offspring’s sixth-form jazz band, in a basement furnished with Habitat insolvency surplus. And a bar, luckily, where we were well received, given pleasingly cold well-priced drinks, and could sit soft on bean bags, fluffy squares or a leather corner-sofa. Soon after the music stopped, the clientele retreated to Parkside and with the lights up a sobering reminder that we remain in the ‘burbs of Sheen.
Another Friday night for dinner some weeks later; we booked, but approached with (luckily misplaced) anxiety at the thought of being the only punters. The menu has been honed down from a longer early version, with beef now firmly at the centre. A fresh scotch egg starter to share arrived slightly undercooked, the external meat a bit like salmon mousse in places. Second time around this was perfect in both runny yolk and crisp herbed pork. Having recently been treated to ‘the best ever’ steak and chips at the Pollen Street Social (£30), the memory of DTF’s version has been glossed over. However, you will not be disappointed by high quality meat cooked as you want it, with sides in proportion, at less than £20, with Fred’s burger similarly tooled up. The wine list could be brought up to the standard and choice of the steaks, but there is enough choice to go around.
A final Saturday brunch, where four of us ate a selection of ‘Fred’s Eggs Benedict, Fred’s Healthy choice etc etc’ confirmed DTF’s ‘niceness’. The place is ‘nice’, the food appropriate for Sheen, but the establishment lacks a soul – I can’t get that emotional about the place, as there is nothing to hang on to. We have never seen anyone looking like the owner, let alone been shown to our table by them (or remembered by the other staff). The website also gives no clue. DTF will need to connect with locals on a deeper level if it ever is to be more than half full. Explaining the origins of the name would be a start.
Don’t tell Fred
40 Sheen Lane,
Telephone: 0208 878 8266
Dinner Price: around £35 per head, with wine
Brunch Price: max. £15 per head
Perfect for: suburban anonymity