Battery Restaurant - Canary Wharf - Fine Dining in London
STEPHEN HIGGINSON recharged himself at Battery, overlooking the Thames
One of the paradoxes of the economic meltdown is that, yes there have been restaurant casualties, but new ones – and more - have quickly appeared to take their place . Canary Wharf, the centre of international banking on the Thames in East London, embodies this phenomena. At least six new eateries have opened there in the last 18 months, including a Jamie Oliver, a sassy Mexican, a stylish Japanese and a down to earth British. These were all probably planned well before the credit crunch hit the banking sector, but the owners decided to follow through with their investment and hope for the best.
However, the area’s latest addition, Battery, has replaced an early victim of the financial turmoil – Ubon , the backwards sister of the much vaunted Nobu in Mayfair. A brave move then, by the INC Group, owners of Battery, who are seemingly in an expansive mood.
An audit of the factors in Battery’s favour looks promising. First, the building is iconic and impressive – a sort of slate coloured fortress designed by Philippe Starck – worthy of a James Bond villain. Second - it occupies an elevated , commanding position overlooking the Thames, giving diners a unique and beautiful view of the river and the city beyond, through splendid floor to ceiling windows. Thirdly, it is, of course, cheek by jowl with all those well heeled bankers and lawyers offices.
Adjacent hassle free parking makes driving there a pleasure, and transport links are good too, with the Canary Wharf Jubilee line and the DLR stations both eight minutes walk away. For real style – diners can pop on the Thames Clipper – which starts at Embankment – and be dropped off virtually at the base of the ‘fortress’, and return home the same way!
Finally, the number of full- time residents in the area has increased significantly in the last few years, and several more up-market apartment blocks are due to open soon, all a short walk away from Battery. Plenty of reasons then, to risk a glamorous new venture.
So the scene is set, but what is on offer, and does it match the style of the building and that heart-stopping view?
What is on offer is ‘fine dining’, and let me say immediately, it is very good. Described as Modern European, the menu works wonders with the basics – like lemon sole, cod, duck, chicken and beef – but of the finest quality, sourced in the UK. Refreshingly, the menu is not overwritten with subtexts – culinary descriptions are kept basic but inviting.
However, this simplicity is deceptive, because chef Mini Patel works wonders with these good old clasics, delivering great subtle food – sophisticated, flavourful, well balanced and beautifully cooked. Patel began his career in the north of England , has had spells in France and the USA, as well as time in the Gordon Ramsey empire. He has emerged as a man in command of his ingredients – bringing out the best in them, and with a sure touch of his flavour combinations, without drowning what’s at the heart of the main course – whether North Sea cod or Angus sirloin of beef.
All this quality and skill does not come cheap. Starters are between £8 and £17
(passing over the caviar at £85!) , and mains are between £22 and £30. All side dishes are a reasonable £3.50.
Over a glass of excellent Pannier house champagne (£9), to start we chose ballontine of Cornish mackerel - with bayonne ham, tomatoes, crab with basil dressing (£9), and tian of Dorset crab(£13)– with crème fraiche, avocado puree and confit tomatoes. Both delicate, subtle and super-fresh. The only minor complaint came from my colleague – the crab contained too many tiny shards of shell.
The wines by the glass are well chosen and we had a clean. crisp 2008 Domaine Daniel Dampt Chablis (£9.50) with the mackerel, and a superb aromatic 2008 Pouilly Fume from Jean Pabiot & Fils (£11.50) for the crab – both suggested by charming and reassuring French restaurant manager, Yannick Chaloyard
Main course choices were wild halibut, pan roasted in cumin, with braised veal belly, tempura spinach, apricots and harrissa spice (£27) and duck breast (£26). On the menu, the latter is described as Reg Johnsons Goosnargh duck breast . According to Yannick, Reg is Britains biggest and best supplier of fine, naturally reared ducks and chickens . It came with caramelised fois gras, creamed sprouts, carrot puree and medeira jus.
Both proved to be beautifully cooked and the combinations inspired. Fine dining indeed!
Side dishes of French beans, and chips – cooked in beef dripping, were both spot on.
My colleague stayed with the Pouilly Fume for the halibut, and I went with a 2004 Chateau Cissac Cru Bourgeois Medoc ; pure velvet!(£11.50).
The wine list is impressive if expensive – a bottle of Montrachet Grand Cru for £360 anyone, not to mention the Chateau Mouton RothSchild at £1,461! But there is a good well priced selection of whites - from £15.50 ( a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc) to a Pinot Grigio at £27, and reds - from £19 ( a Sicilian Nero D’Avola) to a Bourgone Pinoy Noir Burgundy at £27.
Battery has a good cheese board but we settled on puddings – a Tonka bean pannacotta (£9 )featuring Yorkshire rhubarb ( the best!) and ginger snap tuille, and warm Agen prune and almond tart (£10), with amaretto cream and Earl Grey tea jellies.
The pannacotta was a perfect finish to a dinner – foamy with a light acidic touch from the rhubarb contrasted with the crisp brandy snap. The generous portion of tart also had a perfect light touch, with a crispy outside, but the prune inside was a little dry. The cream and tea jellies helped to cope with that shortfall!
Battery deserves to do well, as its offer – served in a chic dining room in calming dark chestnut wood, pale green leather and globuler hand made glass lights, like so many Saturns floating in space - is first class. So is the river view – especially at night, culminating in a panorama of London’s ever increasing sparkling office towers. Both inspiring and romantic – thus fit for all occasions!
A Battery club is in the thoughts of the owners – which could add further cachet, especially for locals. Before that, there is a need for better signage. Entry is through an electronic gate into a neat garden, next to the Four Seasons hotel. Once into the garden,
directions to find the ground floor entrance and lift are thin on the ground. Persist, the effort is well worth it.
Stephen Higginson December 2010
34 Westferry Circus,
London E14 8RR.
O208 305 3089
Monday to Friday. Lunch: 12 -2.30 pm . Dinner: 6 -10.30pm