Jason Atherton City Social London – a swish spot
Jason Atherton is one of those clever British chefs who has made a solid fist of going global. We’ve dined at many of his establishments – Singapore, Sydney, Shanghai and, of course, London.
Needing a place to while away a few hours in between landing at London Heathrow and being able to get into our hotel room, we made a booking at City Social. This is in the City of London, on the 24th level of Tower 42 in Old Broad Street.
The view, both inside and out, is quite spectacular. This is a luxe-looking restaurant and, at lunch, it’s heavily patronised by business types. In our smart casual Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband felt seriously underdressed.
The restaurant has sweeping views of the Gherkin, St Paul’s and the Shard. It’s spacious and refined. It’s not the easiest to find. The entrance is off a small laneway and while there’s a staff member at a desk on the ground floor, his only admonition is to take the rear elevator.
And while they all go to the 24th floor, only one of them opens within a glassed-off cubicle offering entrance to the restaurant. Back to the ground level we went, but found no way of actually calling the one lift we knew would work for us. Luckily, someone working in the building, with a security pass, took pity on us and swiped us into the glassed enclosure.
We discovered Jason Atherton on the TV show Great British Menu – he has a great knack for flavour and we’ve enjoyed treats at restaurants such as Esquina in Singapore and Sydney’s Kensington Street Social.
Here, the food appears to be in a similar vein to the Sydney establishment. We settled in, ordering an IPA for gluttonous husband, while Greedy Girl requested a glass of 2008 vintage Moet. It must have been our accents because no-one serving in the restaurant seemed to understand us. Greedy Girl wonders what’s going to happen to the hospitality scene in the UK after Brexit – she can count on one hand the number of British wait staff encountered on this visit.
Still, all was well and our drinks duly arrived. We turned our attention to the business of food. Greedy Girl opted to start with yellowfin tuna tataki, served with a cucumber salad, radish, avocado and ponzu dressing.
This was a very pretty plate of food (pictured at the top of this post) and the flavours were fresh and vibrant. It was quite spectacular and a great foil from the heavy, salty, bland ‘cuisine’ on our flight from Hong Kong.
Gluttonous husband chose the Orkney scallops with cep fregola, smoked pancetta, black garlic and lardo di Colonnata. Again – beautifully presented and delicious. As is our custom, we swapped plates halfway through which didn’t escape the attention of the staff. We explained we liked to try everything and that apparently met with their approval. Whew.
Unusually, gluttonous husband opted for a risotto for his main course although he was initially tempted to order a game dish given the menu advised that ‘any game dishes might contain shot’ – not something you see everyday.
This was squid ink risotto with confit lemon, coastal herbs and aged Sardinian pecorino. A dramatic looking dish, it was quite tasty when you got a bit of everything on your fork, but quickly felt a bit heavy.
Greedy Girl chose a heritage potato and caramelised onion terrine with celeriac and candied walnuts. This was OK. The onions needed more caramelisation in her humble opinion and that would have boosted the flavour immeasurably.
The candied walnuts? Greedy Girl loves them but these just didn’t suit the dish. They were tooth-achingly sweet and the toffee surrounding them dominated the nut rather than accentuated it.
And we were done – after the walnuts Greedy Girl didn’t feel like dessert. We headed for a bathroom break (and these are definitely loos with views) and prepared to head back into the coolish streets.
This is a fine place to sit and enjoy a good lunch and it’s probably even more spectacular at night when the buildings are illuminated. The starters were executed brilliantly and what came after was less successful, but there are no doubt more options to be explored here.
Level 24, Tower 42
25 Old Broad Street, London EC2