City Social, London
With new and exciting restaurants popping up around London on a pretty much daily basis, I always make it my mission to try somewhere new on my all too infrequent visits. This time, rather than working my way through the extensive Amandine restaurant ‘wish list’, I went off-piste having searched for somewhere that answered the ‘somewhere up high’ request for a family birthday celebration.
City Social certainly ticked that box and you can’t help but be wowed by the spectacular views as you exit the lift on the 24th floor of Tower 42 in the heart of London’s Square Mile. Part of Jason Atherton’s growing global empire, the expansive venue is all about clean lines, dark furnishings and art-deco touches set against a backdrop of some of the city’s most recognisable landmarks; the Gherkin is so close you feel you could almost reach out and touch it.
Arriving a little too late for a cocktail at the bar we were shown straight to our table, cleverly arranged in a curved leather booth facing the floor to ceiling windows so that all five of us got to enjoy the views.
With Atherton at the helm, City Social is run by Restaurant Associates with Executive Chef Paul Walsh heading up the kitchen, and offers a slightly more conservative menu than the more ground-breaking dishes some of Atherton’s other restaurants are known for. I opted to start with a beautifully light Yellowfin Tuna Tataki served with a refreshing cucumber salad, radish, avocado and a Ponzu dressing which was delicious, although we were almost all agreed that a wild garlic risotto with braised morels and aged Parmesan was the unexpected star of the starters show. I followed this with the Herdwick lamb loin on a bed of asparagus, wild garlic and braised morels, which in itself was slightly underwhelming but was brought to life by a quirky accompaniment akin to a shepherd’s pie topped with pommes soufflés. A gorgeous looking Lincolnshire rabbit saddle with Parma ham and girolles with little drops of lovage emulsion and black garlic dotted prettily around the plate certainly looked the most appetising and didn’t disappoint on flavour. The dessert menu offered a fairly classic array of decadent treats – our favourite of the lot were the English Strawberries with a pistachio sable, yogurt, elderflower and pistachio ice cream – just as mouth-wateringly delicious as the elegant presentation had promised.
An extensive wine list caters both to city workers on mega-budgets as well as those of us wanting more reasonably priced options to pair with our various menu choices (we chose a crisp Albariño followed by an Argentinian Malbec). The service was courteous and while it may have been rather over theatrical at times (five waiters to deliver and unveil the five plates for every course seemed almost comical), it was never obtrusive.
Having eaten at several of Atherton’s other venues both in London and Hong Kong, my favourite would still be his flagship Pollen Street Social where, for me, the more creative food options are a notch or two above City Social. All in all though, it was a fantastic evening at a memorable venue with some very tasty food and great wine. If you visit, don’t miss the best views of all – from the glass-panelled loos!