The last time I visited Tower 42 was five years ago. Then, I rode the lift all the way to the top to Vertigo 42, a charmless champagne bar with not much more going for it than a spectacular view. These days, the view is even better, with the addition of such spectacular silhouettes as the Cheesegrater, the Shard and the Walkie-Talkie, and there’s another option: Jason Atherton’s City Social. Sitting on the 24th floor, it may not be as high, but the view still packs some serious wow factor. And, more importantly, the drinks are very, very good.
I popped down (up?) last Monday to try out the new winter cocktail menu, whose contents bear Atherton’s trademark attention to detail principally through wacky garnishes, some of which would have made Willy Wonka himself look like a bumbling amateur. My favourite of these was The Day Of The Truffles (£14.00) because a) that is a boss pun, b) it contains both champagne and gin, c) it also contains TRUFFLE HONEY and d) that truffle honey is served in the delicate folds of a carnivorous flower, triffid-style.
It was very truffly on the nose – prompting me to dash off a quick email to Jo Malone to propose a new home fragrance – but much lighter on the palate. Its rich, powerful scent belied a delicate, fruity flavour, a creative twist on a Kir Royal. It went down a treat with the Mushroom, Mozzarella and Chive Arancini (£6.50) – not for the calorie conscious, but worth schelpping to the gym the next day for.
Other highlights included Get In The Sea (£12.50) – fig and samphire infused gin with Cocchi Americano, lemon and garnished with shining globules of ‘caviar’ in a conch – and Oh My Gourd! (£13.00), a pumpkin-infused tequila number with lychee, lime, agave and a painstakingly home-made pumpkin crisp, clipped in place with a teeny tiny wooden peg. My tablemates, who included superstar Instagrammers Clerkenwell Boy and Food Feels (both essential viewing for food porn aficionados), were especially taken with the Shison Fire (£13.00), a tequila based concoction with a black salt rim and punchy apple and wasabi puree.
Breakfast At Harry’s (£13.50) also went down well with its carefully constructed balancing act of powerful flavours: whisky, maraschino, coffee and liquorice bitters, though it was a little overwhelming for me. It came finished off with a cigar of ‘fruit leather’ (i.e. a posh Kellogg’s Fruit Winder).
The bar snacks were surprisingly heavy; they arrived in a wave of beige, everything battered, breadcrumbed and/or deep-fried to oily oblivion. The pork empanadas (£6.00) and pepper prawn crackers (£3.50), alas, failed to deliver after the creativity and complexity of the cocktails, but a few dishes did manage to shine. The aforementioned mushroom arancini were dangerously moreish (I had six); the avocado tempura with aubergine dip delighted everyone with its contrasting creamy avo with crispy batter; and the goat’s cheese churros were also rather special. Their sugar-encrusted crunch was tempered by the baked-in cheese, which kept the middles extra moist, and the dish came with a side of truffle honey for dipping. The end result was both sweet and savoury, though, admittedly, quite filling. If you’re eating elsewhere somewhere nearby, skip dessert and have yourself some churros and cocktails here instead.
I’ve never eaten at City Social, though if Atherton’s other restaurants are anything to go by, it’s worth checking out. I would certainly recommend it for cocktails, though you will pay a little above average for that gorgeous view. You can also book a table for drinks, so plan ahead and make sure you bag a window seat.
City Social, 24th Floor, 25 Old Broad St, London EC2N 1HQ
Author: Emily Gibson
Emily is an urban adventurer, blogger and
glutton foodie on an epic quest to uncover the best things to eat, drink and do in London. She lives in Islington and loves ceviche, cycling and magic shows. Lifelong nemeses include beetroot, beards and wine served in tumblers.