Tel: +44 (0)20 7403 8403
Address: 36D Shad Thames, SE1 2YE
Cuisine Type: French
Tower Hill, London Bridge
Le Pont de la Tour is the jewel in the crown of the Conran empire, and as such it has a lot to live up to. On a freezing Monday night in January (hardly ideal for enjoying the splendid views of the Thames and Tower Bridge) could it live up to the reputation as the restaurant chosen by Tony and Cherie for entertaining the Clintons?
Yes, for the most part. If the restaurant area is slightly barn-like – no chance of a cosy nook in this big space – it is also a very, very well-run establishment, with courteous, unobtrusive waiting staff and supremely assured cooking.
The main emphasis is on fresh seafood and in particular, Colchester oysters. They come in a variety of sizes starting at £12.50 for six. Caviar, lobster and langoustines also feature on the starters menu, but there are other options too. I risked life and limb with roast foie gras, caramelised apple and truffle sauce (£11.50) and it was worth every calorie – the liver meltingly tender, the apple providing just the right amount of tart contrast and the truffle sauce perfectly judged. Classic dressed Dorset crab with melba toast (£14) was also highly appreciated by fellow diners.
Main courses are also dominated by fish but with plenty of choice for hardened carnivores. Guinea fowl with truffled potatoes and stuffed cabbage (£22) looked very appetising, osso bucco Milanese with saffron risotto (£24.50) was tempting and roast duck with spiced red cabbage, cherries and foie gras (£23) would probably have been my choice if I hadn’t already racked up too many health-check points. I was good and chose the red mullet with caramelised chicory and orange vinaigrette (£21). The fish was perfect (and almost perfectly filleted, not an easy task with mullet) and the chicory was to die for.
Side orders of vegetables (mostly £4) I found a little pedestrian: pommes frites were OK but not special, buttered cauliflower and spring greens rather dull. They really weren’t needed, in any case; we should probably have tried the blood orange, fennel and endive salad (£7) which sounds very enticing.
Puddings (£8.50) are classic: a very well executed crème brulée, a rich pot au chocolat, a traditional Diplomat pudding, Tarte Tatin… good stuff but nothing to send a pudding lover to that other dimension.
The wine list, all 79 pages of it, might just do that for the true connoisseur – you can download it from the website and check for yourself. Suffice to say that while there are some very pricey wines there are also some to suit a more modest pocket, such as a Saumur-Champigny at £28 that I may have to try next time.
Overall impression? A great restaurant (and I’d like to check out the bar-brasserie, which looks good too). I think the view is even better at The Oxo Tower (and the interior is more interesting), but there’s no doubt this is a class act.