Wonderful views from half way up Tower 42 where Rhodes 24 once was, in a slick, dim lit and stylish design serving very good dishes and snack food from Jason Atherton.
Not much has changed in my opinions of previous visits to City Social, with the only exception being I think I might like this place even more. It is seriously seductive and pleasant for drinks at the bar or a lovely meal overlooking London with very caring service and actually a fun thing to do / environment to experience for most occasions I would say. After a brief security check on the ground floor (I’m actually a fan of this to increase safety), a full compliment of staff was ready to greet us at the reception at the end of the very quick elevator climb to the 24th floor. Pleasant drinks at the bar were seemlessly transposed on to the table bill and the headline is that the meal had on this occasion was as slick in design as the whole restaurant area.
The starters I tried were the Brixham crab and fruits of the sea linguini, which were both fresh and excellent and all other dishes were presented in a way worthy of the venue’s shiny Michelin star. I have had the fillet steak here before (see below) but not the côte de boeuf (shared between two) which was more steep in price, but with the lovely bone marrow and quantity of the beef given, you can see more clearly why this is priced as it is. I thought this shared meat was absolutley wonderful but found I didn’t need as much of the fat that was given on the côte de boeuf. The Irish beef and lamb dishes were certainly pretty and the lamb I tried was deep in flavour and deliciously tender with well judged jus to accompany.
The peppercorn and bearnnaise sauces were done well naturally, although I found the peppercorn sauce a tad too fiery and the bearnnaise a little more dense compared with my last visit, but both still good. The simple side of salad was actually worthy of note in itself as beautifully coated with a light vinegarette and the duck fat chips were never in danger of being a bad addition as were lovely, although in truth, I actually prefer when they are not so thick if the crust is quite thin as it means more crunch for your bite(!). The rasberry soufflé on the other hand I thought was stupendous in flavour. Normally soufflés can be too sickly sweet but this was toned down beautifully with equally well supporting rasberry ice cream.
One minor error from the night, which was a basic one, was that the 20 minute wait for the soufflés was not mentioned as a heads up at the beginning or during the meal (it is on the menu but I would argue many diners don’t always look at desserts at the beginning of the meal as they wish to see how they feel at the end and then forget). The staff were customarily good about it when this was pointed out at selection time but perhaps the pressure to get the souffle out as quickly as possible caused it to being ever so slightly liquidy in the middle and undercooked – it didn’t change the fact however, that it was the nicest tasting souffle I have had to date. The white, red and dessert wines on this occasion were all agreeable to the food but seemed perhaps a little steep in price for the yield in the mouth when I compare the quality of the Californian red had at Smith and Wollesky with their steak for example.
Nip-picking and observations aside, this was a wonderful meal without a shadow of doubt, with stylish food matching an equally gorgeous venue; it was in fact a total pleasure to experience properly and share with the whole company present.
Food Grade: 86%
My third visit to City Social proving yet again what a lovely venue it is whether one is dining for Michelin starred food or having Michelin starred snack food by the window overlooking London or having either in a booth-sofa table which remains a very nice touch.
I was, however, let down on this visit by the lack of communication skill by the front of house and some of the staff. I don’t have a problem with European or International staff dominating the floor in London venues (if they can speak English adequately), but I do find it tedious to have to keep on repeating myself if it takes 4 attempts to break through language barriers and if the mannner of the staff is blasé about this, and this is what I experienced on this visit. On this occasion I was also dissapointed with the lack of eye contact, greeting and general lack of concern by the front of house – pretty devestating if their primary job is to do just this. I raise this as it has a strong impact when not done well and causes this to be a prominant memory when it has been very good up until now.
Anyhow, the food, cocktails and views remain wonderful and I must get back at some stage next year in order to sample some of the remaining key, dinner dishes.
Food Grade: 84%
I went to the bar this time and with a window seat overlooking the city by night we were, once again, looked after exceedingly well. The atmoshpere on this side of the house is bubbly and again, it is difficult to pick holes in the hole evening, although I was gutted(!) that the Afternoon Ti cocktail had been pulled off the cocktail menu; such a shame as it was just such a sure-fire, winner.
On this occasion all the starter nibbles were selected and all of these Michelin starred snack were exceedingly pleasant and tasty and quite reasonable too. The winner of the nibbles was the pork empanadas (mini pastry bites with red / spicy pork filling) but all others were a delight and frankly I think anyone would be very happy just grazing on these Michelin bites and wonderful cocktails instead of going for a full blown meal.
Obviously, we needed to do this as well, so the fillet beef with three different sauces was obviously needed. I thought the beef fillet done here with its sweetened and delicate tenderness was utterly beautiful and I would put this way above those at Goodman based on the fact they had clearly been rested and beautifully presented on a mini-wooden slab as well. The béarnaise was completely lovely although I could have done with a tiny bit more tarragon for my palate and it was lovely to try their sauce choron (supposed to be served with the lobster but I could not resist asking and they were very generous to oblige my ludicous sauce fetish).
There are simply not very many reasons not to enjoy this place and it remains a fantastic venue in its stylish and yet unpretentious delivery. One is looked after well here, in a tastfully designed venue that also happens to serve tasty, Michelin starred nibbles and dishes that have simply gorgeous flavours.
Food Grade: 84%
It’s hard to fault this experience at City Social. Those that dined in Rhodes 24 will recall a light but quiet and austere feel to the dining room which has now been replaced by Jason Atherton’s City Social. The first change that guests should be aware of is that where one had to enter the main Tower 42 building, check in at the huge reception and then go through the passport-esque security to just get to the lift for Rhodes 24 has now been replaced by the much easier system of going through a street level door on the South West side of the building that goes straight up to the restaurant after checking in on this level – much better! The next thing that struck me was how much more room there was inside the actual venue and the feel of the restaurant and bar is one of stylish comfort. The dim lights and open space and comfy booth tables in both the bar and the restaurant produce a wonderful and sophisticated atmosphere at the same time as being unpretentious. The cocktails that we had were original and quality, all giving a nod to the prohibition era as another interesting twist – my Afternoon Ti of condensed milk with rum was frankly one of the nicest coktails I have ever had and was a stroke of brilliance (see photo).
We were looked after superbly from the beginning from the restaurant reception, cloak area, bar staff, waiting staff, head staff and kitchen staff all operating under the experienced eye of the floor manager, Rob Kihlstrom. I was immensly impressed with the degree of hospitaility all round, which frankly rivalled that of Le Gavroche – a significant standard to reach. This was then followed by some wonderful dishes including pig’s trotter, sweetbread risotto with madeira glaze, Pork loin with superb accompanying black pudding and rabbit that was entirely succulant. I idiotically did not take any photos of the mains and can only put that down to being so keen to dig in to them that this was not done. Desserts were equally strong, in fact, there wasn’t a single element of all food brought to the table that I didn’t enjoy as the three of us tried everything.
A long chat with my co-diners was had over how any improvements could be made if any and the telling thing was that it was genuinely hard to answer that question. We agreed that if one was ultra picky, there were a couple of language barrier issues with the waiting staff that caused two near misses, but to their credit their extremely polite approach and initiative transcended these. The only other observation was that a fraction longer in between courses would stray in to feeling the wait was longer than necessary – although close, thankfully, this barrier was not breached.
All in all, this was a suarve and comfortable environment to visit where I was frankly delighted with the service and the pleasingly sexy and simple flavours of the food which, together produced a great experience. A newly owned establishement has had the Atherton formula thrown at it with flavour combination favourites and gaining their first Michelin star straight away and a no holds-bar approach to the expense needed to fully transform a venue to a very good result.
On some revisits to restaurants where I have had to go back to gain more photos I have felt it a minor chore to varying degrees depending on the place, but in this case I can happily say that I am actually excited about the need to go back. As a fillet steak and sauce béarnaise obsessive, I cannot wait to go back and see how this or the lobster is with the sauce choron. A very good show here indeed and although the phrase is often over used, it genuinely exceeded all my expectations. Bravo.
Food Grade: 87%
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