Amongst the charming backdrop of London’s Southbank riverfront, sits an old red brick power station, converted into a cold store in the 1920’s by the producers of the oxo brand of stock cubes, and into an arts building in the 1990’s. With a uniquely designed tower bearing the “OXO” namesake in it’s architechture, this building, with it’s unique and bizzarely varied history now plays host to (amongst other things), a fine dining restaurant. The Oxo Tower Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie sits on the top floor of the OxoTower complex, and promises to serve fine British cuisine with an “East meets West” influence. A separate halal menu was available when I visited, though sadly, this is no longer the case. Seafood and vegetarian options are available however. Alcohol is served.
I visited OxoTower with Steak last September, long before I had even begun planning the creation of Steak And Teeth. Luckily for you, I have the memory of an elephant (and the physique of one too), and remember the sensory and emotional input received from my food more than that from my friends. My order included a halal fillet of beef, cooked to medium-rare, and served with girolle mushrooms, parmesan gnocchi, and spiced golden raisin puree.
The beef fillet, sadly, arrived well-done, resulting in a rather tough and dry texture, particularly in the centre, which was extremely disappointing for a fine dining establishment that prides itself on serving exceptional food. In hindsight, I should have sent it back for another one so as to get the best experience from the restaurant, (and to get my lot-of-money’s worth!). The fillet was also fairly bland, save for a very mild coating of seasoning, and the majority of the flavours were provided by the accompaniments.
The parmesan gnocchi consisted of roasted potatoes infused with parmesan, and each piece was incredibly rich, packing strong flavour from the parmesan which wasn’t overbearing either. The crispy texture of the outer skin, and the soft, smooth texture of the parmesan and potato insides, combined with the contrasting texture of the girolle mushrooms to complement the beef fillet well. The spiced golden raisin puree was thin and light in consistency, and was amusingly presented more like a “spillage in aisle three” than a puree. Of course, the term “spiced” at a British restaurant refers to a concoction as ferocious to the tongue as a slightly warm glass of water, and there were no disappointments to that stereotype here. The puree was very mildly sweet in flavour, and pleasantly so, complementing the otherwise unexciting fillet, and providing balance against the powerful richness of the gnocchi.
All in all, a fairly pleasant, well-constructed meal where the accompaniments took centre stage and left the prized, beefy star in a spotlight of shame. Had the fillet been cooked medium-rare, the meal could have been significantly more enjoyable. Partly my fault however, for not sending the fillet back for a replacement.
Value For Money: 2/5
My meal cost £42.00, and other mains generally sit around the £30 mark, whilst starters range from £12-£15, and desserts from £5-£8. For a top-floor fine dining establishment in the heart of London, you would naturally expect prices to be steep and portions to be less than generous. You essentially pay for the venue, the service, the overall dining experience (and probably the oxygen you breathe), as well as the food, and all these factors considered, I’d say it’s more or less a reasonable financial affair at Oxo Tower. That said, I still think it is at least a little unkind to the wallet in relation to what you receive. Fine dining should consist of the finest of food, and sadly, on this occasion, it didn’t. Had the beef fillet itself been a little more exciting, Oxo Tower may have scored higher for value for money.
As you’d expect, you’re well looked after right from the moment you step into the restaurant. We were first escorted to the balcony area whilst our table was prepared, presumably to catch some fresh air and also to give me time to contemplate throwing Steak over the edge. Waiters and waitresses are welcoming, friendly, and attentive, and come around with a selection of fresh, complementary bread, which is always a nice touch at fine dining restaurants (mainly because you’ll probably still be fairly malnourished after the mains). The restaurant is also very well-staffed for it’s size, ensuring you’re never lost amongst a sea of other diners when it gets busier towards the latter parts of the evening.
On the top floor of a building filled with art shops and galleries, the Oxo Tower restaurant follows suit, with a simplistic, modern decor. The dining area is fairly open, with vented ceilings, comfortable leather chairs and crisp white-clothed tables, and is surrounded by windows on two sides, and a balcony on one, which provide pleasant views of the surrounding London landscape. The view from the balcony is a substantially better sight in the dark however, (a bit like my face), as the bland buildings are shrouded in the night, and the more attractive features of London, (i.e St. Paul’s Cathedral), are lit up for show.
The restaurant itself is a short 10-minute walk from Southwark or Waterloo station, or a slightly longer stroll across the river from Temple, Embankment, or Blackfriars stations. There are a number of parking lots nearby, but public transport is probably the best way to get here.
Even when filled with diners, the restaurant and the surrounding hubbub remains quiet, calm and collected. The atmosphere is incredibly relaxed and slow, and it’s easy to enjoy your own private space. As the sun goes down, the purple and blue overhead lighting goes up, making the entire restaurant reminiscent of a giant lava lamp, adding to the relaxed ambience. You certainly don’t feel rushed to leave, despite the time-limited reservation. A bit like when you’re invited over for iftar during Ramadan, and your host sits there, smiling with a glazed poker face because you’ve accidentally ended up staying until suhr.
With exemplary service, an attractively simple venue and pleasant nocturnal views of London, Oxo Tower is a perfect place to mark a special occasion with a fine, fine-dining experience. However, this is one restaurant where I found the overall dining experience to be more enjoyable than the actual food, and for that reason, it is not a place I would visit a second time. “The first impression is the last impression”, and with fine dining establishments where you usually expect to pay a significantly extortionate amount of money for your meal anyway, this statement holds even more weight. There can be no room for error at such establishments, and sadly, with my meal, there was. Oxo Tower then, is a bit like bungee jumping, or sky diving, or petting a tiger in Thailand, (though probably slightly less exciting). I could probably recommend it once for the experience, but any more than that and you’re just being silly and reckless with your money and your life. Well maybe not your life. Unless you’re dining with myself on an eighth floor balcony. I get easily bored, and when I get easily bored, I get easily interested in testing gravity. (Just kidding. Maybe).
Oxo Tower Restaurant, Bar and Brasserie
Address: OXO Tower Wharf, Barge House Street, London SE1 9PH
Telephone: 0207 803 3888