There are already so many restaurants in London, and it seems that, trendy new ones pop into existence on a regular basis all around the city. I am all for trying new things, exotic cuisine, experimental concepts or minimal menus.
But all this newness can be tiring, and one can easily get bored of the predominant “pipe ceiling” look that can be seen everywhere in the East London restaurant scene.
For all of these reasons, it sometimes feels good to go back to timeless, classic, elegant French cuisine, most often accompanied by opulent and chic décor! This quest for refinement brought me and my companion to the iconic “Le Pont de la Tour”. It's just undergone a major change in décor and cuisine, moving from Modern British back to French.
Opened in 1991 by Sir Terence Conran as part of the Butler’s Wharf Gastrodrome, the restaurant sits in a Grade II listed Victorian warehouse built between 1871 and 1873.
With its spectacular riverside location (quite unique at the time) overlooking Tower Bridge, Le Pont de la Tour became one of the capital’s most iconic restaurants, welcoming many distinguished guests such as the Blairs and the Clintons.
On the occasion of its 24th anniversary, the restaurant has been completely refurbished and is now headed by Chef Frederick Forster, former Roux scholarship winner, previously working at The Boundary Restaurant and Rooftop in Shoreditch.
The restaurant and bar have kept their refined look and gained a more contemporary feel. Everything is darker, slicker and the opulent gold patterned ceiling evoke roaring twenties glamour.
One of my favourite spots however is the terrace, with its amazing view of the river and Tower Bridge. We asked to dine outside even though the air was very cold; they kindly accepted, fired up the overhead heaters, and offered us a very romantic and exclusive meal: we were the only two guests that had ventured outside!
When it comes to food, if French cuisine is your thing, then you will be more than happy with what’s on offer. All the classics are here: from Foie gras, to Sole Meuniere, to Crepe Suzette! But you can also find some more modern dishes as well, all very simply and elegantly presented, created to showcase the quality and the freshness of British products.
We chose from the “A la carte” menu, as no set menus were available for the soft-launch and quickly settled on the Herb-crusted rack of lamb (for two, £24/pers) with its ratatouille and mashed potatoes, after seeing it served and looking absolutely delicious.
The choice of starters was trickier as many items were equally appealing; I finally opted for seared duck Foie Gras with roasted black Fig (£15), while my partner had Serrano ham, with goat cheese croquets and tomatoes (£9.50).
The whole food was heavenly, and complemented well our young Cote du Rhone wine (Les Gamins) (£8/glass). And finally, I could not resist the appeal of warm and boozy Crepe Suzette (£7.50) while my partner went for Bitter Chocolate and Mirabelle pave (£8).
Service was impeccable and the French waiter and sommelier were exactly what you can expect in a top class French restaurant: bringing you a touch of old school politeness and distinction!
The bar looked even more stylish than the restaurant in my opinion, but we did not have time to try their cocktails unfortunately.
The whole evening felt really special, partly because we had the whole terrace to ourselves, partly because we enjoyed a different style of restaurant experience that we are used to, and most certainly because of the food. Price-wise you need to count around £60/person for 3 courses and a glass of wine.
VERDICT If you are a nostalgic French person or in need for a special evening, I highly recommend Le Pont de la Tour and its terrace.
Le Pont de la Tour 36d Shad Thames Butler's Wharf London SE1 2YE
Nearest stations: Tower Bridge, London Bridge
020 7940 1833 www.lepontdelatour.co.uk