Oxo Tower, SE1
Head Here If… You’re after a grown up bar with stonkingly good views of the River
Great cocktails? Check. Fab views? Check. Tasty bar food? Check. The new look Oxo Tower bar ticks all of our boxes for the perfect London date…
First Things First
It’s funny stepping into the new look Oxo Tower, we remember it when the bar was located in the centre of the room. There was a buzz about it then and there is now, but the look and feel has completely changed. In a good way we hasten to add. Apart from a bit of nifty space shifting the main difference is how the remodelled bar makes the most of the views. It seems obvious, given the fact Oxo Tower looks out on to the the beautiful Thames and the architectural splendour of St. Paul’s, but the set-up before meant you stood facing into the bar rather than sitting and looking out of the window. A new design from Shaun Clarkson changes all that. Enter a room full of smart and cosy mustard yellow leather cub chairs and neat circular tables, a streamlined Ocean liner-style Corian bar and clever lighting and you’ve got the perfect setting to fully appreciate Ian Goodman’s new cocktail list. And of course that knock out vista…
As born and bred, loud and proud Lahndoners, we’re always chuffed when a London bar bigs up its heritage. Ian has been very much inspired by the history of the river, either using London-based spirits such as Beefeater and Sipsmith, or creating drinks with a riverside connection.
Ms S loves the sound of both signature drinks, the Southbank Cocktail (Beefeater 24 gin, Belvedere grapefruit vodka, shaken with lychee liqueur, fresh ruby grapefruit juice and a spot of sugar) and the Pleasure Boat (Elements 8 barrel-infused spiced rum and house almond syrup, shaken with fresh pineapple, passion fruit, fresh lime, falernum and aromatic bitters. Float of fired woods 100 and nutmeg). In the end, Ian makes the decision for her, guiding her to the joys of floating along the Thames in a Tiki-stylee. Heads turn as it arrives at the table. A tot of rum is poured into the passion fruit shell garnish then Ian sets a flame to it, as much for theatre as for enhanced taste.
It’s a big hit in the taste department, bringing a smile to Ms S’s lips with the first sip. It’s a beautiful sunshine drink bursting with exotic flavours. They’ve served around 650 of them since November, come summer we reckon the figure will go through the roof.
After a bit of chit-chat with Ian the direction for the martini is Sipsmith, due to its “roundness with no harsh edges”. Mixed with a little Noilly Prat, it arrives in a tall, elegant, classic glass with a big piece of rough cut lemon peel. There is a subtle lemon aroma - then some sweetness up front, it’s full in the mouth, very well balanced, gentle long finish- very agreeable.
Ms S goes for the Holland House Cocktail (Dutch-style Genever and Zubrowka vodka, shaken with Noilly Prat sweet vermouth and fresh apple juice, apple and honey foam, served straight up) as Ian recommends it. And what a deliciously elegant drink it is too, very girly and delicate to look at. That said, there’s nothing weak or namby-pamby about the taste of this cocktail. Interestingly, even though no mention of cinnamon is stated on the menu, that’s the first taste and smell that greets her as she dives in. Not that it matters as she’s a big fan of the spice but it might not be so agreeable for others who don’t get on with it.
Like a lot of drinks on the menu the Press Gang (Woods Navy Strength Rum, Kings Ginger Liqueur, lime, falernum, fresh raspberry, lashed with Luscombe organic ginger beer & bitters) takes its influence from London – in this case based on Navy Grog in honour of those from the old docks, just down the river, who were “pressed into British Naval service”. It’s a long drink with a very agreeable partnership between the hit of really flavoursome Navy Strength rum and just enough sweetness from the liqueur. At the same time it manages to be both refreshing and powerful – a good alternative to the mojito.
And To Eat?
We went for a selection of bar appetizers including delicious padron peppers (£3.50), fat herb olives (£3.50), smoked anchovies artistically served in a tin (£4.50) and extremely moreish truffled honey chorizo (£4.50), but if we had more of an appetite we could have chosen from a selection of more substantial dishes including sweet potato tortilla, aubergine caviar, rocket and chorizo (£7); charcoal grilled harissa spiced quail, houmous, pomegranate molasses (£11.25) or tempura battered cod and chips with wasabi lime mayonnaise (£14.25).
Look Out For
Obviously the views but try to tear yourself away from those for a minute or two and spend some time reading about the stories behind the drinks on the list.
What’s The Damage?
Coming in at under £10, but only just at £9.95, mind you in this location and setting we’re not complaining. Sparkling cocktails £13.50
Ms S says:
This a wonderful spot to chill out with girlfriends or a date. It’s casually elegant so works perfectly well in after work clothes or in full dress-up mode. Great drinks, really good food and excellent service – what more do you need?
Mr G says:
This has been a favourite of ours for years and the refurbishment has worked exceptionally well, affording even better views of the river and our City. It’s hard to think of a better place to stand with a martini and drink in the beauty of London.
Oxo Tower Wharf, Bargehouse Street, South Bank, SE1 9PH. T: 020 7803 3888. www.harveynichols.com