Tower 12, 18-22 Bridge Street
Date of visit: 6 September 2014
The first thing to get out of the way is that it's a Living Ventures restaurant. So it's blingy. There's a bar with lots of cocktails (though here on a different floor). The staff are trained to within an inch of their lives and only the best of them break out of the confines of appearing somewhat automaton-like with their scripts.
But for all that, it's an attractive and engaging place, both the bar and the restaurant. The most off-putting thing is the entrance, which looks like an entrance to any old office block (which is what it is, of course) and the woman gatekeeper on the desk at the entrance. Being challenged before even getting near the bar or restaurant itself is something I find particularly uncomfortable. When the bloom's worn off, they may regret having this barrier against any possible passing chance trade.
Having got past the first greeter (we had booked), we went up to 12th floor, as much because we felt we should, than any particular desire for drinks beforehand. We went on a rainy lunchtime, so the views from the bar, sorry The Lounge, weren't as engaging as I imagine they can be.
|White Lady cocktail|
|That's what you call a bar|
Descending in the lift back down to the 2nd floor and the restaurant (all a bit of a faff, when you think about it: surely it would have been better to put them on adjacent floors, though perhaps they had to work round existing tenants and leases?) we met the third greeter of the day. It's worth saying that once we'd got past the gatekeeper at street level, the other two greeters knew exactly who we were and we didn't have to repeat our names at each floor.
The restaurant is chic industrial glam, and a little less glitzy than the bar. It's a big space and they must be able to seat a significant number of covers: it was empty when we went in, but full (having turned the odd table too) by the time we left.
|The open kitchen and (because the bar upstairs isn't enough, another bar on the right)|
One uncomfortable feature is that the tables are unusually large. Not just larger than normal (which would be welcome in many cases) but so big that you can't imagine coming to Manchester House for a romantic date à deux. You'd have to have long legs to play footsie. Indeed, the couple at the next table made a point of moving one chair and place setting so that they sat next to each other on adjacent sides of the table. All the tables for two would have been better turned through 45° and the diners seated next to each other.
Very much to the credit of both front of house and the kitchen, there was the merest hint of a batted eye at our decision that one of us would go à la carte (with the rather odd "A la Carte Extended" option) and the other would take the option of turning the 2-2-2 table d'hôte lunch menu into a six course tasting menu. Obviously, there was the occasional hiatus for one or the other of us, but the kitchen worked the timings well to produce a meal that flowed well for both of us.
The "A la Carte Extended" seems to me mainly a way to charge £15 for three amuses bouches that would come under the category of "freebie nibbles" at many other places. Apologies for the vagueness of my descriptions of these "extended" dishes: it was difficult to catch everything the waiter said, as often when they're working from learned scripts.
|"Extended à la carte" nibble 1|
|"Extended à la carte" nibble 2|
|"Extended à la carte" nibble 3|
|breast & leg of quail, foie gras torchon & chicory with pain d'épices|
|Langoustines and carrots|
|lobster & chicken lasagna|
|lobster & chicken lasagna: so good, it's worth another look|
|Lobster & chicken lasagna revealed. Look at the work in that!|
|Poached chicken, gnudi, chanterelles|
|Rose veal fillet with cacao beans and foie gras mousse|
|Lemon cheesecake, blackberries|
We'd had the flight of wines by the glass with the table d'hôte: most had been solid matches, through drawn, I think, only from their regular selection of wines by the glass. However excellent the lemon cheesecake and blackberry concoction was, the Recioto di Soave that was served with it was a terrible match that detracted from the dessert. It might have been the best match from what they'd got to play with, but it was a very poor match.
|Gingerbread, plum, pear & chocolate|
|Top espresso (a massive single!) in a cup and a half|
Espresso was superb and a single was remarkably large. Apparently those cups cost £80 each! It's worth saying that all the crockery and cutlery was not merely good, but also very impressive. No slates either!
With coffees came a wooden box containing a kaleidoscopic selection of very good macarons. Some of the flavours were good, others less clear. Although not perfectly matched (something highlighted by them all being presented lined up next to each other), there was a pretty decent uniformity too. Accomplished.