Regular readers will have taken note that it’s been a few weeks of unusual quiet. Rest assured, there has been much good food to be enjoyed; however, with 12+ hour days at work over the last few weeks, there has been little opportunity to write about it. Pity me not; I’ve been enjoying my work immensely – and, I’ve returned to you with a restaurant well worth writing about.
City Social is an old favourite of mine. Michelin-starred chef Jason Atherton combines his creativity with seasonal ingredients and produces dishes which are an elegant treat for the eyes as well as the tongue. This – and the gorgeous views of the City of London – are precisely why I’ve been coming for years, and even hosted my MBA graduation party at the Chef’s Table room here.
The restaurant has a dark vibe, and I dare say, I’d be inclined to bet the interior was designed by a man, for men. Far too dark and far too cold (I needed a wrap from the moment I sat down), it visually suggests this is a place for the movers and shakers of London’s financial world, and if you were to stop by at the bar or for dinner mid-week, you’d see a sea of suits throughout the venue. On a weekend evening (as was the case this time around), the crowd was a bit more balanced. But nonetheless, it is still elegant: the details in the flatware, the linen tablecloths on the tables (unless you are sat at the booths with a front-row view overlooking the City), the refined courteousness of the wait staff… all these factors in addition to the food and views make it far easier to overlook the dark vibe.
The menu is seasonal, and so my friend and I were treated to a list of delightful autumnal dishes among which we selected our favourites. Shortly after, we were presented with a round loaf of warm and delicious sourdough bread, served with two butter options – one which was lightly topped with tiny shards of fried onion or shallot. Delicious; so much so that I forgot to take a photo, so you’ll have to trust me (in my defence I saved all my calories for this event, and was beyond famished).
My first course was the lobster tortellini, fennel, yuzu, and bisque which was added to the dish after presentation. This is a dish for which the picture does not do it justice. The darkness of the tortellini derives from squid ink; the lobster inside married with the bisque perfectly. It was a light dish with flavours that danced on the tongue and made for a lovely opening dish.
The main course I selected was the duck breast, confit leg pancake, salsify and radish. As if the presentation of the duck was not tempting enough, the pancake was presented in a lovely wooden box which was reminiscent of a treasure chest. What a treat. The duck was pink and cooked to perfection; absolutely delightful. The pancake? It was a savoury, crispy treasure. Perhaps a little more charred than I’d have liked on the edge, but I’m picking at details here.
My friend Sydnie preferred to order seafood; her dish is below, so that you can see another example of the impressive plates we were served:
Given how well we had eaten up to now – and I had saved enough calories for it – of course dessert had to follow. I was delighted when Sydnie and I found ourselves thinking the same thing: the tarte tatin is served for two, and fortunately we both were hoping the other wanted it too. It was made on order, and the pan was brought to the table where our waiter plated the dessert topped with the caramel from cooking. It was served with a ball of vanilla ice cream on the side, which is of course the quintessential complement to this dessert.
It was certainly one of the best tarte tatins I’ve had… I could have probably eaten the whole thing myself had I not had two courses prior. My photo truly does not reflect the lovely balance between the sweet and tart, the soft apple and the contrasting texture of the pastry. It was a lovely way to end the dinner, and truly the highlight of our evening.
A dinner at City Social is a bit pricier than average, it’s true. But it’s always a fantastic dining experience, and when combined with inspirational views, it’s clear to see why it’s always worth a return visit. It’s still one of my favourite restaurants in the City, and I look forward to my next return.
*Calories: Honestly, when it comes to dinners like this, it’s always hard to estimate so I fast the rest of the day and figure that it’ll come to around 1200-1500 calories. When you factor in the three courses, and the half loaf of sourdough bread and butter as well, it’s probably very much in that range anyway. If you’re drinking alcohol with your dinner, that’s a whole other kettle of fish, so to speak.
Food taste: 4.7 / 5 (Pretty hard to beat; it was delicious and I couldn’t really find fault, but can’t give a higher score here because I actually have had a better tarte tatin which is a touch above this one. That’s not to suggest this wasn’t fantastic; only that the other one is that phenomenal.)
Food/table presentation: 4.7 / 5 (Food presentation was impressive and as each dish arrived at the table, we were continuously delighted. I have, however, seen a tarte tatin presentation which is superior to this at a multi Michelin-starred establishment, so yet again, I strive to remain balanced here. )
Service: 4.5 / 5 (Excellent service; however, Sydnie was late and I was in the process of being asked to give up my table just as she was arriving. That was a bit stressful, quite frankly. Also, it would have been nice to have had a little more detail in the explanation of the dishes upon presentation: it was a bit sped through and Sydnie always asked me what the waiter had said when he had departed after every dish. Minor points, though.)
Atmosphere/decor: 4.2 / 5 (It’s stylish and elegant, with stunning and inspirational views. I would have loved to give it a higher rating, but it’s a little too dark in there and it was far too cold in the restaurant.)
Value for money: 3.5/ 5 (I’ve rated this only just above average because although I do believe it is a fantastic dining experience, I personally felt that the dishes were on the small side for their price. Of course I know it isn’t about big portions at restaurants of this calibre, but I’ve spent nearly the same amount at multi Michelin starred establishments and the experience was dotted with amuse bouches, palette cleansers and other lovely treats – even if the portions were similar. I suppose what I’m suggesting is that the sticker price is largely informed by the views as well as the food. Regardless, it’s an excellent choice for a special dinner in London. )
Overall rating: 4.3/ 5