I’m a sucker for a good view. Being somewhere high up, while making me a little nervous and occasionally a bit sick, also makes me a little giddy! I simply adore being able to see the world from a different angle. You see so much more from up high. It’s sort of how it works. No, maybe you can’t see the details but being able to watch the world buzz from above is almost magical.
London is full of great views. My favourites include the 360 degree panoramic view available at Paramount in Centre Point, the riverside view from the Brasserie in the OXO Tower, the view of Tower Bridge from the Hilton Sky Lounge Bar and the city wide view from Aqua at The Shard. There’s actually plenty more, but you’ll notice that the common theme with these views is that they all come with incredible food and drink! And the latest to be added to my list of favourites has got to be City Social, the newly awarded Michelin Starred restaurant from Jason Atherton.
My first visit to Tower 42 where this 24th floor bar and restaurant can be found was only 2 days after it was announced they had been awarded a highly coveted Michelin-star! An accolade that my food writer idol Jay Rayner was probably a bit peeved about considering his less than polite review of the restaurant and it’s punters (oh I say!) in The Observer.
Your ears pop on the way up in lift. This is by no means the highest restaurant in London. Not by a long way. Over the road you could visit the Heron Tower and zoom up to the dizzying heights of Sushi Samba which stands 14 stories higher than Atherton’s art deco style venue, but that doesn’t mean that City Social doesn’t provide a superb skyline experience.
Dining guests can choose from two dining options; a table within the restaurant where you can choose from an elegant A La Carte menu, or a table within the bar where you can enjoy their exciting cocktail menu, and dine from their bar menu which features a selection of small sharing dishes and a few larger portions suitable to order as a main. Both of my visits were to the bar, as the price is much closer to affordable in there than in the restaurant. Jay Rayner believed the average cost of a meal including drinks in the restaurant was approximately £220. That is not a meal that can be bought on my salary, unless I choose not to eat for the rest of the month. Which is not a option. I am a pig.
Regardless of where you sit in the bar, the view is mesmerising, but by the window is of course a bonus. If you’re lucky like I was on my first visit, you may be given one of the tables over looking the gorgeous architecture of The Gherkin which is incredible, especially at dusk as the lights begin to shine from the offices. The other side of the bar gives you views to the west of London. More on that later. The interior design of the bar is similar to something you might find in a Great Gatsby themed bar. Dark wood, mirrored wall decoration, low lighting and chic shiny tables. There is an excited buzz that hums around the entire room; the excitement of alcohol at an elevated height and after work gossiping over premium bar snacks.
You’ll be hard pushed to avoid ordering one of the cocktails from their exciting looking menu. These drinks have each been designed by Gareth Evans, winner of World Class GB 2013, who oversees his team of top mixologists in this bar; the witty names for cocktails and use of unusual ingredients have become synonymous with Atherton’s social brand – I have previously tried a selection of these cocktails at The Blind Pig at Atherton’s Social Eating House in Soho.
The Robin Hood Quince of Thieves is visually amusing, and you’ll find your mouth equally pleased with the fresh, sweet flavours of the apple brandy and quince liquor. The miniature apple bullseye garnish is definitely instagram worthy!
Equally delicious and pretty to look at (especially when combined with a killer view) is L’amuse Goose which has a refreshing tartness thanks to the gooseberry liqueur and lemon juice, and if you have never tried a dehydrated gooseberry raisin before, this is your chance as the elegant garnish comes in this form!
Other cocktails worth noting are definitely the Afternoon Ti which is served in a glass shaped like an old-school milk carton, with candy striped straw and has the gorgeous creamy flavours of condensed milk and brown bread infused rum, or the stunningly colourful Pea-Lini made with salted pea cordial and butterfly absinth.
When it comes to food I don’t think there is a better snacking dish on the entire planet than the Goats Cheese Churros (£6) which come with a pot of London truffle honey. The name of the dish speaks volumes alone – essentially a savoury doughnut stick made with cheese (win!) with a pot of sweet sticky goodness to dip into (double win!) This truly is a dish that “redefines the boundaries of sweet and savoury” – direct quote there from Tom, the boyfriend of my lovely friend, Beckie. The cheese that lies within the soft, doughy foundations of the churro is creamy, with that well known and loved tang, complemented perfectly with the honey (which is served in a large enough portion that there’s enough to dip your finger into after the last churro has been devoured, which won’t take long at all!) Yes, this dish is designed for sharing but do yourself a favour and order one for yourself and yourself alone! You’re worth it.
The £6.50 portion of Baby Cornish Squid with chilli and lime salt is also a superb dish (this time okay to share). The squid, while only a baby, comes in decent mouth sized pieces with a coating similar to that of the addictive, lightly spiced crumbly skin of a piece of Kentucky fried chicken, which I obviously mean as a compliment (you can try and deny it, but crispy fried chicken skin is delicious and you know it!)
The perfect crescendo to a meal from the bar menu is the “Ploughman’s Basket” which features a scotch egg, potted salt beef, vegetable crisps, a slice of Isle of Mull Cheddar, some crackers, a pot of fig chutney and piccalilli, and a jar of salad drizzled with oil for just £15. The presentation is almost as delicious as the food itself, as it is delivered to your table in a wicker basket, and laid out on a red and white gingham picnic blanket. The scotch egg is the star of this picnic. with a perfectly gooey egg in the centre of a rich meaty coating which is almost creamy – it’s not your standard mincemeat coating. This is like a delicate, soft black pudding or pate. The salt beef is also delicious, however, and is the perfect accompaniment to the crisp crackers and goes exceedingly well with the sweet, chunky fig chutney.
The duck fat chips demonstrate precision (£4) as each of the 8 or so that come in each portion are uniformed to exactly the same size. Sharing amongst 5 of you is silly. You’ll need at least one portion between two, possibly more as they are both crispy and fluffy at the same time – just how I love my chips to be.
My only negative about this superb venue is that the service is a little hit and miss. On my first visit the staff were attentive, helpful and chatty, however my second visit saw a dip in attentiveness – smiles were few and far between and service was slow and disjointed. My friends were happy to pass this off as being a side effect of a busy evening, but when a restaurant is this high profile and a full bar is always expected, the quality of service should remain high. That being said, I will definitely return here again, regardless of this blip. If not for that view (which can even be enjoyed whilst using the facilities – what is better than a view of Westminster whilst relieving yourself of the multiple cocktails you’ve been enjoying all night!), and if not for *those* churros, then for the chance to experience what I can only imagine is the rest of an outstanding menu.