I’m a fan of Jason Atherton. Out of his series of Socials, Pollen Street and Social Eating House are my firm favourites. When City Social took over the top spot on 42 Towers, I was keen. It wasn’t easy to find someone to go with though; I have always thought of it as a date restaurant and the last guy, well, is history. Since I was leaving London, if not now, when?
Regardless of how pretentious and OTT the other critics make of the place, it was a very impressive dining room. The circular booths were all facing the city skyline towards the window, offering a sense of seclusion and privacy. I wanted one of those. It was bye-bye Londres so champagne felt appropriate - any excuse really. In our usual manner we took our time mulling over the menu; my mind is now transparent to him and he effortlessly picked out my top two options for each course. Impressive.
Roasted French quail, pancetta, fried quail egg, peas, quail vinaigrette
This ensemble carried an earthy tone from the luscious pea puree. I am not usually a fan of any peas or beans, but this was subtly sweet with a hint of subdued grassy fragrance. As expected the bird was roasted to perfection; thin crispy skin enveloped soft and delicate meat. Finished with brittle pancetta to give it the nutty and savoury touch.
Warm fruits of the sea, linguini and shellfish cooking sauce
Pasta is an unusual choice, but I sometimes go with recommendations. The linguini was hidden beneath the array of seafood, cooked to precise perfection; crunchy prawn, plump mussels and bouncy razor clam. The highlight was the sauce, which was similar to a crab bisque, creamy and packed with crustacean goodness. Why did they only pour half a boat of sauce?
Yellow fin tuna tataki, cucumber salad, radish, avocado and ponzu dressing
We left our table and wandered across to the windows to watch the city skyline as the sun began to set. It wasn’t long until we were summoned back to our table, not for our mains, but for the second starters that we didn’t order. Apparently the kitchen was conscious that it has been a long wait between our starters and mains, and so offered us this to keep us entertained. That’s a nice touch, except it didn’t feel like that long a wait.
The thick disc of tuna was lightly seared on the outside but retained its soft, bouncy sashimi texture in the centre, worked well with creamy ripe avocado, both dressed in a thin citrusy grapefruit sauce . The pickled cucumber and wafer thin radish slices were mildly acidic, served well to cleanse the palate for our mains.
Lincolnshire rabbit saddle and sausage, Pommery mustard mash, trompettes, garlic
This was exquisite. The saddle was sous-vide to retain its succulence, though not dissimilar to chicken, it was less compressed and carried meatier flavours. The walnut-looking lumps were a type of fungi, they soaked up the jus like mini sponges and worked well with the disc of meat. The sausage was made with the dark meats from the rabbit, it had a coarser and grainier texture to it, like boar, and packed with plenty of herbs. My favourite was saddle meat coated in the crispy breadcrumbs, it was juicier and more tender. There was so much going on but it was controlled chaos; each component contributed equally to keep the ensemble exciting.
Yea alright the kitchen could work on presentation, it does look a complete mess, but one could not fault the flavours.
Middlewhite pork loin and belly, grilled asparagus, shallots, black onion crackling
By comparison my pork dish was somewhat less sophisticated, but much more pleasing to the eye. The loin was slightly pink in the middle, though still glistening with pork juice, I prefer the softer and pinker Iberico pork. The slab of pork belly underneath the pile was more enjoyable with its layer of gelatinous lard, nutty and fragrant. Together with the airy crackling and crunchy asparagus, it was still an accomplished and rounded dish.
Interestingly this was the third pork dish I had at Atherton’s restaurants - I like the pork chop at Little Social best.
Peanut and Banana, chocolate ‘old fashioned’, nutmeg coral, banana ice cream
Chocolate old fashioned referred to a take on a cocktail. I’m not sure if we could find it on the plate…
It’s hard not to fall in love with / at City Social; the all-round view over London , the intimate ambience and the magnificent food - how could you not? I agree the clientele could be a tad stuffy with the suited and booted city boys during the week, but on the evening we visited it was mainly well-dressed ladies and gents. Like I said ages ago, City Social is a date restaurant.
It was a wonderful way to bid London farewell. I shall miss you, so very much.
25 Old Broad Street
Tel: 0207 877 7703