For a supper with a view, a Partner at my law firm chose City Social for a work dinner (and drinks) with a fellow Partner who was in town from San Diego. Whilst I generally don’t review meals that I’ve enjoyed with work colleagues, the said Partner is aware I’m something of a blogger and encouraged me to shoot and snap the evening. And since City Social is a very well-reputed City haunt, home to Jason Atherton’s latest social venture and sitting atop of the 24th floor of Tower 42, I thought I’d share my thoughts on this skyhigh restaurant.
Once you’ve risen to the altitude, the space inside is as gorgeous as the view: nocturnal, seductive and full of art-deco flashes. Sitting in the bar area for a few cocktails, we were surrounded by the skyskrapers that have shot up all over London: the Gherkin, the Cheesegrater, the Walkie-Talkie, the Shard, as well as the new ones popping up. You feel so close to the Gherkin that you can practically see the laptop screens of its office workers.
For our cocktails, we sat in the luxurious deep-curving leather booths. It all looks very old gentlemen’s club: leather banquettes, wood trim everywhere, dark floors. If you work in the City and need to entertain, City Social is well equipped.
Their drinks menu is extensive and imaginative – probably more so than the food menu. The list is worthy of a good read: not only is an entire page dedicated to “Twisted Gin & Tonics”, i.e. unusual gin-based cocktails, but another twenty or so are eccentric concoctions with equally intriguing names. Beginning with “The Root Of All Evil”, the list feature a “Gold Plum-Sachs” – probably tribute to the dozens of Goldman Sachs bankers who, went not drinking on top of Aldwych’s ME Hotel, are sipping from a height here. Just a glance around City Social’s clientele highlights its predominantly City crowd.
Back to the cocktails, not only are the ingredients and titles very twenty-first century, but their presentation are equal conversation starters/fillers. The American Partner’s Brokers, coconut, sage and lemon zest (£13), was a radioactive blue, so bright that a “Danger” sign was clipped onto the (tiny) goblet that it was served in. Meanwhile, the London Partner’s Marvellous Medicine (£13.50), a concoction of Chivas Regal 12yr, Lillet blanc, ginger, locket syrup and Peychaud’s bitters, was even more surprising. This cocktail is very DIY. Befitting of a medicine, it came with a prescription outlining the instructions for service: dissolve the tablet (?) in the brown bottle, shake and pour into the glass with the ice. So intrigued was I that I tried a sip; whilst it was too strong for my palette, for the Partner it was perfectly smooth.
Opting for something more classic, I went for City Social’s take on the Aperol spritz. The Freedom of Peach (£13.50) is made with Bulleit Bourbon, Rinquinquin peach wine, lemon, jasmine soda and of course, Aperol. Whilst I had initial reservations that the jasmine lent a clinical note, the peach freshened up the drink, though I think I still prefer the classic Aperol Spritz Italian style. My second cocktail, A Damson In A Stress, was more successful, probably because it didn’t have any ice which I find so often dilutes a drink. The Absolut Elyx vodka, damson, rosemary, lemon, Aperol and prosecco sang through, as did the “hate mail” that came clipped on to the glass which reminded me that “McDonald’s is not a romantic meal”- just in case I ever mistook it for one?! I’m still puzzled as to why reference is made to McDonald’s when dining it City Social.
In comparison to the view, the food menu is more classic, or should I say Square Mile/corporate. This also contrasts with the more playful, frontier-pushing dishes that Atherton has carved out a reputation for. The dishes are largely English-inspired, with global influences thrown in here and there – ponzu, cardamom cream and lemongrass velouté. Whilst the a la carte menu doesn’t feature any vegan options, the kitchen were happy to adapt dishes for me. For starters, I went for the Beetroot salad, pickled and smoked (£15). It was probably one of the most beautifully presented dishes I’ve eaten. I felt like I was eating a work of art, probably Picasso. Who knew beetroot could come in so many textures and presented in such an elaborate arrangement. This dish certainly fulfilled my expectation that I’d be eating beautiful food in a glamorous setting.
Although tempted by the Butternut squash risotto for mains, I went for the more unusual Heritage potato and caramelised onion terrine, Jerusalem artichoke and walnuts (£24). For me, the dish wasn’t as exciting as the starter, which had set expectations that were as high as the 24th floor. The dish could have been more daring. Unsurprisingly, the highlight for me was the walnuts, which seemed to have been caramelised. Glazed, sweet and salty, and crunchy, it elevated the otherwise rather classic dish to a higher setting.
My colleagues, meanwhile, enjoyed their Cote de boeuf (£82!). Served for two, it came with Cornish potatoes, chips, and a tempting salad which I couldn’t resist trying, lured by the bright pink raddichio leaves.
My only quibble with City Social is the rather slow service. They seemed to be full house so we had to wait quite a while for both our initial cocktails to arrive and our orders to be taken. Nevertheless, the service is as well-mannered as the cooking, with sauces and syrups poured at the table with some table-side theatre.
Whilst City Social all feels very corporate, if you’re looking to impress a colleague, client or may be a date, swanky City Social – or its view – will do exactly that.
City Social, 25 Old Broad Street, London, EC2N 1HQ