Oxo Tower is one of those restaurants which I think of as a London experience- something I’ll do at some point, but on another day. It’s the kind of place that I’ve always wanted to go because of its fantastic location – the opportunity to drink in all of London’s glorious skyline, giving you one of those moments to pause and realise you are part of this fantastic city. However, saying this, I’ve always been somewhat dismissive of the food, believing it may be simply overpriced and overhyped, living off its location. In this respect, I was pleasantly proved wrong- whilst on the expensive side with mains around the £24 mark and starters at £10 (given we dined at the brasserie and not at the restaurant), the food was fresh and interesting, Mediterranean-inspired and not at all stuffy.
Having already had a few nibbles at pre-dinner drinks, we chose to share a starter of lamb merguez sausages, served on a bed of pureed peppers with crumbled marinated feta and dukkah, with a light sliced cucumber salad adding freshness to the warm spice of the sausages. The flavours worked well together and felt Moorish in origins (to me at least!).
For main I went for sherry-marinated poussin with puy lentils, air dried proscuitto and gorgonzola marinated red peppers and a glass of house sauvignon blanc.
This combination reminded me of rustic meals outdoors in a late French summer – it was delicious – my only criticism being that for me, the proscuitto was slightly over salted. Neverthless the crunchy bite of the crisp proscuitto pared with the creamy gorgonzola, a forkful of lentils, chicken and peppers was divine. It was yummy – maybe not the most inventive of dishes, but solid, delicious flavours that I would combine into a dish myself.
My dining companion opted for the duck breast with an aniseed crust, root vegetable puree and a mixed pea salad. The duck was cooked to pink perfection and the aniseed flavour complemented the rich game excellently and was another well-executed dish, showing that the kitchen was able to bring roast duck bang up-to-date with an aniseed kick.
Unfortunately, neither of us were able to fit in a dessert, so I can’t comment on these. In this respect, it’s worth noting that whilst mains were pricey for a “brasserie”, they were also substantial and therefore represented relatively good value, compared with other £24-priced dishes I have eaten of similar quality, and their size was why we couldn’t face a dessert.
I’ve got this far and still haven’t mentioned the view – well, it is worth it, provided you try to negotiate a table by the big floor to ceiling glass windows – it is a wonderful location to really make you feel at the heart and soul of this fantastic city. Unfortunately though, the decor of the restaurant is, in my view a bit too utilitarian and reminded me a bit of Pizza Express with added UV lighting, which wasn’t ideal. However, this shouldn’t detract from going to Oxo Tower for a special occasion or with visiting out of town friends to give them a glimpse of London by night, lit up in all her glory. Would I go back? For these reasons yes, but just for a quiet dinner with friends? No. But then, I don’t think that’s the clientele they’re aiming at. It’s a place to go and tick off the London list though.
We had starter, 2 mains, 2 glasses of wine and coffee for £80 including service
Value barometer: 6/10 – it’s a bit pricey, but quality is good and portion sizing generous
Go if: you have friends visiting/business
Don’t go if: you are looking for individuality or quirkiness
Atmosphere: Corporate/special occasion
Getting there: Waterloo/Southwark/Temple underground.
Note we dined at the Brasserie, there is also a higher-end Restaurant and also a bar on the same site.