The sun’s out, which means the City chucks on its Raybans and decamps to the spit of grass on the nearby roundabout for lunch. Hell, I even saw some bare legs this lunchtime.
A definite whiff of spring in the air also means one thing: alfresco drinking and dining, which is where Shad Thames comes in. Forgive me on the specifics – it’s not technically in the City – but it’s only 15 minutes’ walk across Tower Bridge, and most bankers live in an exposed brickwork warehouse conversion locally anyway.
Le Pont de la Tour is the jewel in Shad Thames’ crown. Part of the awesome D&D group – The Bluebird in Chelsea and Butler’s Wharf Chop House are included – this riverside gem is one of the most elegant, summery restaurants along the strip.
Housed inside what looks like a ship’s deck (but is actually a converted warehouse, natch – SE1 is just too cool), Le Pont offers picture-postcard views over City favourite Tower Bridge, especially from the tables outside, where in summer it’s one of the hottest tables in town.
It’s overwhelmingly popular with rich City veterans and much younger models. One spring Friday night, the smell of pheromones emanated from every pore. This is the restaurant to see, and be seen. Guys, this is where you take the ladies and get paid in kind.
The food matches the décor: substantial, weighty and stylish. To start, scallops arrived with a ginger and leek butter, perfectly presented in large sea shells. My mother (who at one point felt a little uncomfortable with the City’s decadent way of eating – although she soon shut her trap when the Moet arrived) got stuck into the Dorset crab with gazpacho. Odd combination, she admitted, but it worked.
As befits a restaurant of such stature, the chef kindly presented us with a middle course of tiny langoustines – unexpected, unordered but appreciated sans doute.
The mains of cod fillet with a slightly overpowering parsley sauce (myself) and the wild mushroom pithivier (otherwise known as a pie, for madre) were enjoyed while gazing, glass of Moet in hand, over the murkier end of the Thames. The food isn’t in isolation here; the French flavours work with the buzz and atmosphere of the restaurant.
Needless to add, wine matching comes almost as standard, with an experienced sommelier on hand to guide you through the extensive wine list. By 10pm we’d meandered through the wines of South West France, Italy and New Zealand without taking a break. Put simply: it was heaven, and the service was impeccable.
En fait, my overindulged mother was still thinking about the first wine – a 2009 Toques & Clochers ‘Haute Vallee’ from Limoux in France – days later, with an enthusiastic text of ‘it was really special’, which in my view, sort of sums up the whole place. For the sun-worshipping suits among you – you don’t really fancy that dingy pavement for an after-work drink, do you?