Qype: OXO Tower Restaurant Bar & Brasserie in London

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One mustn’t allow having a really ace time with a good friend who, having just split up from her boyfriend and wanting to drink good cocktails, get rosy-faced, and end up staying until the early hours listening like teenagers to an ipod whilst ploughing through our second bottle of fine Harvey Nic’s wine, laughing dorkishly one minute and having a demonstrably angry argument about how silly the Green Party is (one that ended with clinked glasses and giggles) the next, missing the last train home, and not really caring about being a bit excessive when ordering rather expensive dishes and lots of them, to mar an otherwise objective review of a well-known brasserie – but it’s really hard for it not to. *

* Sorry, stupid sentence alert.

I had always avoided this place, having been told by a friend of a friend that it was overpriced and overhyped. A great lesson: don’t trust friends of friends.

I’m addicted to being up high in London. I mean, overlooking our amazing city – especially at night. Hence it was a real treat to spend a good five hours up there with a table right next to the expansive glass viewing walls. The brasserie is spacious, airy, and high. The view you see whilst dining overlooks the South Bank of the River Thames, and you can also see in the opposite direction (i.e. South London) whilst sitting at the bar. (Although it’s not as good.)

The bar is lit up all blue; kind of tacky but it went perfectly with the Mojitos and Ceviche spoon samples we ordered and ate at the bar before the meal. How Miami. The deal was  two Mojitos and 4 Ceviche spoons for £25: classic Latin American spoons of raw fish, salsa, onions – pack the same punch that oysters do but without the oysterishness. Before we knew it, a waitress had seated us at our table and brought our drinks over. Oh, and the barman offered to take our photo. I actually agreed. This is unbearably tacky, but I went for it and it felt brilliant. We were two Londoners, in London, behaving like complete tourists.

The service was superb; friendly, knowledgeable, polite. Front of house were lovely. The waiter, when asked to flip a coin on our behalf, he smiled and obliged. The tables were packed close together, but it didn’t matter because we waited for a good table by the window. I would advise doing this too. Why come to one of London’s best haute-cuisineries (haute as in high-up) and not wait a few minutes to get a good table where you can take-in those breathtaking views?

Apparently you can dine al fresco on the spacious veranda during summer. I’m really looking forward to going back in summer.

The food was all great, everything was done beautifully. From a serious foodie point of view, there was nothing progressive or inventive enough to blow me away, but this is “fine dining”, not Heston.

What I did expect was horribly overpriced wine. The kind where you spend £30 and get a bottle of crud. Gladly the wine list is good, and although I’m sure the markup is high, it’s not nearly as horrific as many London pubs that charge you literally £25 for some bottle of bile that would cost £2.50 at Tesco, if they even sold the stuff at Tesco, which they don’t otherwise these damned restaurants and pubs would get found out for being the wine-trafficking criminals and pimps that they are. No, the wine we drank was decent, the list had neither a “pinot blush” nor the standard array of underwhelming New World wines in sight. Good.

The Thai crab cakes (a bit yawnish, I know) tasted like really superb Thai crab cakes, actually.

The duck breast was a bit fatty, but everything around it was prepared and presented to perfection.

In a fit of non-compliance, we decided upon french fries. Damned brasseries.

I honestly don’t remember what the desert was, but I think it involved a lot of chocolate, another bottle of wine, and some espresso, which was recognisable as espresso. Good good.

I heartily recommend this lovely brasserie. Go at night, go on a whim, book 10 minutes before you turn up, drink some good stuff, enjoy the gorgeous views and the classic bustly brasserie atmosphere.

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