Fine Dining with a view at OXO Tower Restaurant, London Southbank.
London’s Southbank is one of my favourite places to spend a sunny afternoon or a balmy evening. Of course, there are plenty of bars and restaurants along the river but finding somewhere special can be tricky. There are plenty of pizza restaurants and all the usual chains – but what if you are London for a special event – be that a visit to the Southbank for a show or simply a day trip to see the sights. The unmissable 67-metre high OXO tower is home to two restaurants – a casual brasserie and a more formal restaurant for riverside fine dining which serves a seasonal menu of modern British/European cuisine. With stunning views across the Thames from the 8th floor, white linen, sparkling silverware and stunning modern decor, the restaurant is the kind of place which is perfect for a celebration and indeed, on the night we were there several tables were made up of couples or small groups enjoying a birthday celebration. There’s no dress code but this is somewhere where smart-casual to formal attire is the order of the day. Although there’s no Michelin star, this is riverside fine dining at its best.
There’s a quirky story behind OXO tower itself, originally a power station which was built in 1900. When it was sold to a firm of meat processors, they were keen to promote their products in what was to become a warehouse and processing centre. But, at the time no advertising was allowed along the banks of the Thames. So, their architect contrived to build a tower with the name of their product cleverly integrated into the design of the upper windows.
A glass of champagne to start, we checked out the menu and nibbled on some bread from the selection offered. A delicious amuse-bouche arrived – a saffron chowder with cockles and bacon served with pesto flatbread. I’d have happily ordered a slightly larger portion of this as a starter and I wondered, as I often do, whether the amuse-bouche is a chance for the chef to test potential new dishes.
My companion picked the warm spiced Dorset crab for her starter, which came set on a soft brioche with a delicate coconut foam, paprika confetti and Chantenay carrots. She loved the mixture of flavours and textures and the plate was wiped clean.
Meanwhile, I’d ordered the complex-sounding dish of quail, wild garlic, black pudding Scotch egg and pear squash. Two dainty morsels of roast quail sat alongside a tiny black pudding wrapped Scotch egg, garnished with a wild garlic puree and mousse and crunchy cubes of what was listed on the menu as pear squash – a firm, caramelised and slightly sweet vegetable. While the Scotch egg didn’t have a runny yolk, the black pudding shell was an excellent contrast to the sweet soft quail meat.
My companion’s main course was a stunning and perfectly cooked dish of John Dory with lobster, celeriac puree, samphire and an oil and herb sauce. We were particularly impressed that no compromise was made with the lobster, which was plentiful and perfectly cooked.
I opted for the ‘on-paper’ simple option of dry-aged beef fillet, with asparagus and truffle hollandaise. If I have any criticism it is that I couldn’t pick out the truffle, but perhaps that’s the fault of my palate rather than the chef!
We ordered side dishes of chips and a wild rocket salad with aged balsamic and Parmesan. Both proved totally unnecessary for us – you certainly couldn’t complain about the portion size of any of the dishes or sides.
We struggled with the idea of dessert but in the end, decided to share a dessert of rhubarb sorbet with yoghurt pannacotta and gin sorbet which came with tiny morsels of honeycomb. Delicious of course – and quite big enough to share, especially since the coffee came with a plate of pretty chocolate petits fours.
I’ve come to the conclusion that OXO Tower Restaurant really is my ideal ‘celebration’ venue. While the food is delicious neither the dishes nor the service dominate – it’s the kind of place where everything just falls into place and you can get on with enjoying each other’s company. The views are truly superb (check my afternoon tea review to get a better idea). And, while you’ll enjoy the contemporary styling and comfortable surroundings, there’s still an elegant feel thanks to the white linen tablecloths and immaculate service. And, of course, finding somewhere to enjoy riverside fine dining in London is special in its own right. Respectably priced, you’ll pay just over £10 for starters and between £20 and £30 for most of the main courses. Many congratulations to Yorkshire-born Executive Head Chef Jeremy Bloor for an exemplary menu that just hits the right spot for me.
Barge House Street
Disclosure: We dined as guests of OXO Tower Restaurant