GRAZING UPSTREAM AT PONT DE LA TOUR IN LONDON
Opened in 1991, Pont de la Tour is one of Sir Terence Conran's chain of restaurants. It is reputed to be one of London's better dining rooms, if only for the view of the river, let alone the seafood.
The river Thames; the artery of a nation, ancient waterway and modern rejuvenation.
Tower Bridge, London
The eponymous bridge that links the restaurant on the south bank with the City on the north bank.
The 'Giant Gherkin' a.k.a. Sir Norman Foster's 'Swiss Re Tower' is seen in the background. This was the second attempt to build on the site of the former Baltic Exchange. The first attempt was a massive thing which would have dwarfed even Tower 42 (formerly the NatWest tower), then the tallest building in the City. The original Gherkin building, which did look like a rather knobbly gherkin, was rejected by the planners. But Foster came back with a revised scheme, a little lower than Tower 42.
This time, the project had little in common with a gherkin — it is more like an artillery shell or something more 'erect' — but the old name stuck.
Champagne from the Bar?
Well, actually I had a Pimms as it was almost Summer time (2004).
Freshly shucked oysters and clams and other shellfish.
The classic Plateau Fruit de Mer consisted of West Mersea Pearl Oysters, Crab, Langoustines, Clams, Cockles, Mussels, Whelks, Winkles, Shallot Vinegar and Mayonnaise; which we thought was a wee bit too much so some people opted for just Mediterranean prawns or Scottish langoustines.
Smoked eel, poached egg and potato salad.
I am partial to eel dishes in Japan and so I was intrigued by this starter in the menu. In the end, it was surprisingly tasty. The well seasoned but not too salty, light smoking had cut through the natural oiliness of eel and the poached egg oozed lusciously over the warm potatoes, with the extra-virgin olive oil finishing off the salad.
Orange peel bread
The restaurant is rather proud of its attached retail bakery and shows off its freshly baked breads. This was an interesting flavour or rather, aroma, as a hint of citrus went nicely with seafood starters.
Whole Roast Lobster with Tarragon and Garlic Butter
This was frankly disappointing, considering the reputation of this dining room. The lobster was not of the first order of freshness and was "powdery". The herb and garlic could barely disguise the fact. In deference to my Japanese hosts, I did not create a fuss as it was still palatable, by far. My dining companions later told me that their fresh chilled lobster starters were perfectly fresh. The moral of the story? Second grade seafood is always served cooked.
Roast Black Pig Sausage and Pork
Apparently, this was delicious according to the tester.
Dover Sole Grilled
Perfectly grilled fish, which the diner generously donated a morsel to me. This only served to make me regret the lobster even more.....
Simple mixed vegetables for all
Chassagne-Montrachet, White Burgundy, 2001 Jean-Noel Gagnard
Dry and toasty, from one of the better producers on Cote de Beaune, nice with seafood.
Margaret River, Chardonnay, 2000 Leeuwin Estate 'Art Series'
Golden yellow nectar with greengage tinge from Western Australia could give Burgundy a run for its money. We had more than a few bottles of this! I never knew that one day I would say, "Give me less wood".
Tokaji Aszu, 5 Puttonyos, 1998 Disznoko Estate, Hungary
Classic, sweet and sour, sherry-like "noble rot" dessert wine. This already hints at the next course and photo....
Creme Brulee with strawberry coulis
The attentive amongst you will notice the lack of strawberry coulis! That is because I believe that creme brulee should be served 'au naturel', sans dressing of any sort. The example here was creamy but under a pre-done crispy coat, before being chilled. It was not of the first order but we had two bottles of the Tokaji and couldn't care less!
The restauant is on the ground floor of this converted wharf and warehouse.
The food had a mixed reception as some of our party were delighted and others clearly disappointed. The service was fine but not exceptional. The wine list was impressive and equally expensive. We had a party of 10 but one would expect a restaurant of this repute to cope. One hopes that things have improved since early Summer 2004..........maybe Half-a-thumbs Up and on the remand list until further notice?
Photos and Text Copyright Melvyn Teillol-Foo, 2005.