Tricia had dined here back in 2008 and had a feeling another fantastic experience was store if we returned. She didn't steer us wrong! We were greeted warmly by maitre'd as we stepped in off the elevators, she took our coats and umbrellas and showed us a seat at the bar area.
Instantly charmed by the bold elegance and potted poinsettias, I snapped a few photos and shortly after we were shown our table.The cocktails we had just ordered swiftly followed in our footsteps. True to form, the Aperol based sparkling libation caught my eye. Combining my favorite orange bitters with another orange liqueur called Mandarine Napoleon along with crushed peach, passion fruit and a charge of Prosecco the Riveria (£13.50) appeased but at a lofty price point.
Tricia chose the Black Libertine (£9.95) made with crushed fresh blackberry, Drambuie Liquor and lime juice. Forgoing an appetizer since our late lunch (almost an early dinner) of fish and chips kept our appetites at bay, we jumped right into the mains. Apparently, where fish is concerned, I couldn't get enough this trip. (All the photos had a crazy blue tint, I thought the b&w was easier on the eyes in some instances.)
This gorgeous plate of food would be the Cornish Stone Sea Bass, with black risotto, baby squid, sea purslane and lemon oil (£27.50). The presentation instantly wowed, striking an aesthetically pleasing balance that was exciting without overwhelming. Every element was perfectly in its place and the dusting of salts and sea purslane across the white canvas were a thoughtful touch.
Taste wise, the dish far exceeded my expectations, beginning but certainly not ending with the expertly seared piece of Cornish sea bass. The generally mild fish benefited from a simple preparation, where delicately crisp and toasty skin gives way to buttery, lemony, melt-in-your mouth flesh. The other components only further enhanced my adoration. Squeaky clean squid tentacles mingled with strips of nicely sauteed haricot verts over a compact and generous portion of jet-black risotto. I typically come across squid ink in pasta form, but I relished its heightened flavors as it absorbed the tender rice. Building from the briny seafood essence, there's an understated richness, a subtle murky deep sea flavor with a complex mouthfeel that fulfills a high honor of complimenting that beautiful fish.
Tricia ordered the Roast and braised wild duck with goats curd and cinnamon dumpling and coriander caramel (£25.50). Benefiting from a flawless preparation and a unique flavor profile, I really enjoyed the couple bites I had. The coriander caramel seemed risky but somehow worked with the roast bird.
Our interactions with the waitstaff at Oxo Tower were interestingly enough, all over the map. Our first server at the bar was highly engaging and genuine, his bright personable nature was followed up by one-note table service; which was mostly courteous and timely. Towards the end, one server became all too fussy and his presence felt slightly imposing. (Hovering, awkward conversations, unsolicited advice.) And was that just a poor attempt at an upsell or is he genuinely concerned that we only ordered one small dessert to share? (Giving him the benefit of the doubt...) Once we were presented the tiny dessert of Hazelnut parfait with poached pears and lemon verbena (£8) his gesture made a little more sense. Despite the fact that I thought it could have been double the size, it was absolutely lovely. The parfait was ultra creamy, complimented by a crumbly lemon verbena cookie, soft delicately poached pears, a crunchy caramel nougat and plated alongside cute little meringue teardrops. Above all, the menu showcases a wide variety of beautifully prepared dishes, executed precisely and in harmony with exciting ingredients. Detractors claim you pay for the view, can you blame them? Even if you likely are (hello $20 cocktail) the food rises to the occasion. If you're looking to splurge or celebrate a special evening in London, allow Oxo Tower Restaurant to entice you.