Summer dining at the OXO Tower on London's Southbank
It’d be fair to say that it’s been an emotionally tough week or so for my friend and I. Her father-in-law had died from COVID-19 in the USA and she’d been supporting her husband throughout the illness. And my lovely, funny, vivacious, champagne loving friend, of nearly 40 years had died from MND after only being diagnosed a couple of months ago. We’d postponed meeting because of these sad events, but decided that we should celebrate their lives and do something we loved. In this case it was a visit to one of our favourite restaurants on London’s Southbank; The OXO Tower Restaurant.
I love the story behind the architecture. Around 1900 a power station was built on the site of OXO Tower Wharf to supply electricity to the Post Office. In the late 1920s it was purchased by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company – the company made the famous OXO beef cube. At this time skyline advertising was illegal, and so its architect, Albert Moore, incorporated the design as windows on a tower to get around the ban. At night it’s light up and is one of the most recognisable landmarks on the Southbank.
This side of the river has plenty of eating options, but a great many are chains, so if you’re looking for something a bit special with a riverside view there aren’t all that many choices. I think that I’d narrow down my favourites as being; Pont de la Tour at Shad Thames, Skylon in the Royal Festival Hall, and the restaurant in the OXO Tower.
The OXO Tower is home to two co-joined restaurants on the 8th floor; a casual brasserie and a more formal restaurant. There is also a bar. At the moment the bar and brasserie are operating as one space to allow adequate distancing. Typically, there was a summer storm on the day that we’d booked to dine, and so seating on the normally stunning balcony wasn’t available.
We started our evening in the brasserie with a glass of English fizz bottled under Harvey Nichol’s own brand. Crisp, dry and with a biscuity finish, this certainly gives champagne some competition.
We then moved into the main restaurant with its linen tablecloths, sparkling silverware and attentive (but not too much) service. We were sat by the window so that we could enjoy the view; it was just a shame about the near gale blowing!
We had opted for the summer set menu. This kicked off with a refreshing G&T made with Villa Ascenti gin.
I started with a dish whose description it's fair to say puzzled us a bit; cured lamb, goats cheese and rosemary panna cotta, pea cress and herb salad, olive crumb, black quinoa. I was expecting to see the classic panna cotta shape, but instead it was piped onto my plate. The whole dish came together beautifully and managed to be zingy and light. It was a surprising and delightful dish.
We both chose the salmon for our main course. Our waitress informed us that the chef likes to serve this pink and asked if we were happy with that or she would request that it be cooked through. We opted to go with the chef's recommended pinkness. This came with a black olive crust, a squash stuffed with risotto, spinach and crispy skin. This was a delicate dish that was surprisingly filling.
Although I was pretty full, I did manage to do justice to the raspberry and tonka parfait, topped with a basil sorbet. It was like the essence of summer on my plate.
If you are looking for somewhere a bit special, then I can wholeheartedly recommend the OXO Tower Restaurant. The food is delicious, but it doesn’t stun you into silence, so you can enjoy the company of your companions. The service is good and unobtrusive. And then there’s that view! If you eat A La Carte expect to pay £10+ for starters and £20-£30 for most of the main courses. Our three course set menu was £39 including the G&T (£29 with the Eat out to Help Out scheme). A similar menu is available in the Brasserie for £33.
In memory of the fabulous Shiv.
Tower Wharf Barge House Street South Bank London SE1 9PH