There is no need for good restaurants in Canary Wharf really, no food enthusiast would come all the way to one of the most soulless parts of the city for something they could find even better elsewhere. So despite Tom Aiken setting up shop and Goodman branching out here, nobody cared. One Canada Square caught my eye though, mainly because it’s in the lobby of where I am working at the moment, but also because the kitchen is headed by an ex-Ivy chef.
Apparently the restaurant has taken up 5000 square feet of the lobby – it must be a freaking massive kitchen. Ana and I were led through the after-work crowd at the bar to a modest dining room. David Collins studio might have done great work at Zedel and The Wolseley to create the ambience of classic grandeur, not here though – still very aware that I was sitting at a corner of an office lobby.
Wine list on an IPad. My view is that I have survived 20 odd years of reading a wine list on printed pages, where I do not need to scroll frantically to compare tasting notes between bottles. In case it’s not obvious, images of the bottles do not help me choosing my wine. I would not, and do not, pick the prettiest looking bottle. And of course they didn’t have one IPad for each table, which is why our server kept hurrying us for a decision. Unless I am ordering straight from the tablet, in that case spare me the 12.5% service, save the technology for your internal operations.
Anyway, rant over. Our bread bucket was served with two types of butter. I thought the one with chopped spring onions and a tinkle of orange twang was quite special.
Steak tartare, hen’s yolk
You see, it’s never predictable with Ana. After her disappointment with the steak tartare being removed from the menu at Hoi-Polloi in the Ace Hotel, I called to make sure it was on the menu before meeting up. And guess what, she went for something else. I’ll have it then.
I’m often wary of egg shells touching my food. We all know where eggs come from and we have all seen the odd brown smear every now and then on the shells we buy from the shops… I could only assume the kitchen had thorough washed and scrubbed the shell before placing it on my raw beef. Shudder.
It was a good tartare. The roughly chopped ruby beef was smooth with some chew and well-seasoned with measured acidity. Compared to the luxurious version at Brasserie Chavot, this one still has some mileage to go; the beef was not as gamey, flavours not as balanced, yolk not as fragrant… that said, this will do.
Venison carpaccio, crispy artichoke, rosemary, truffle
The sheets of venison were very meek in flavours despite the sealed edges; it lacked the gamey notes and bloody rawness. While the velvety textures drew out the nutty aroma of parmesan, the smoothness was somewhat spoilt by the harsh crisp from the artichoke. The deep fried vegetable was glistening in its oils, which meant the delicate succulence was replaced by a mouthful of unpleasant grease. I wasn’t sure about the combination of rosemary and truffle either, the two dominating essences had a clash and was thrown off-balance. Quite chaotic.
Scallop & shrimp burger, kimchee, fries
You know when you see something on the menu and you brain goes “Oh dear…” Then your dining partner orders it “Sh*t…” And your dining partner happens to be Ana “The crisis begins…” I mean, I know we are living in an era where burger patties are made with super high quality beef from little cows with name tags, but what exactly is one trying to achieve by mashing up perfectly good bouncy scallops and shaping them into a patty?
Shrimp burgers, or more often prawn cakes, I can understand, because the chopped prawns turn into a thick gelatinous paste with a playful, springy texture. But this mammoth of patty was dense with too much flour, and more annoyingly masked the delicate sweetness of scallops and whatever shellfish hiding in there. Not to mention its unappetizing ugliness. Clashed like a car crash with the lanky bun, lack of accompaniments and obstinate pile ‘kimchee’.
Umm… she ate some fries.
Crab ravioli, leeks, samphire, shellfish sauce
So I had the Medlar’s crab raviolo in mind when I ordered this. The top sheet of pasta was just marginally undercooked and it had dried out to leave a slightly plasticky mouthfeel, but all okay when soaked in the frothy broth. It was excitingly packed with heaps of shredded crab meat, which was unfortunately lacking moistness; it didn’t have the sweet shellfish juice that holds the meat together. The sauce wasn’t concentrated enough to bring the flavours back either, and all in all a very disappointingly bland dish.
One would have thought being next to Billingsgate, One Canada Square would nail the seafood / fish section with minimum effort. Sadly it felt as though the kitchen doesn’t really know what to do with it, hence the half-hearted effort and poor execution throughout. The entire restaurant was awkward; located at an obscure corner of an office tower lobby, waiting staff with a quizzical smirk when they couldn’t remember which wine you ordered, managers that avoided any kind of eye contact, and finally a crowd that didn’t visit for the food. Enough said.
The bill came to £90 for two - 2 courses with a glass of wine and coffee each – including a 30% off introductory offer. I could eat so much better with that price tag.
1 Canada Square
Tel: 0207 559 5199