Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Restaurant Review: Jeremy's Pop-Up Kitchen at the OXO Tower Restaurant

  Even though I only visited on Sunday, this post is already slightly out dated as Monday was actually the last day for the pop-up. Sorry about that. But I'm still going to include it, because Sunday evening certainly was a very odd dining experience, and not at all what I expected from the OXO Tower! I'm also going to apologise here for photo quality - I had my phone only, and as the lights are very blue it's hard to get good pictures!

  The OXO Tower is probably already a familiar London landmark to you, lit up along the Thames. Up on the 8th floor lies the OXO Restaurant and the OXO Brasserie, both of which I've visited in the past and really enjoyed, for the quality of food as well as the great views. It had been probably two years or so since my last trip to the restaurant so I was excited to see they were offering a three course meal at £30 as part of the London Restaurant Festival and booked it immediately. The restaurant and brasserie do quite often offer £30 set menus but they always tend to be at really restricted times, which is great if you really like eating your dinner at 10:30PM but ultimately, I don't.

  I'll be honest - I read the little bit that said it was Jeremy's Pop Up Kitchen and didn't question for a second what that meant. So I was most definitely in for a surprise when I walked through the brasserie, beautiful as always, and was then taken to my table by a man in a luminous yellow reflective jacket. I remember thinking about how odd it was and assuming that they were understaffed and so another team were having to help out (in retrospect, I don't even know why that was a logical thought in my head. I blame the terrible traffic that night). I then got to my table, apologised to my friends for being late, stared out the window at the view for a while, and it was only then that I turned around and realised that something was not quite right.

  So, it turns out that the kitchen is being replaced at the restaurant, and the head chef decided to just roll with it. So the main kitchen area is closed off by the typical white boards you see when construction is taking place, and rather than have this be strange they decided to just go with it and put all the staff in construction tops, some of them in hard hats, give us menus on luminous yellow boards and have random drills and plans and other things decorating the place. In the OXO Tower. Yes really.

  To add to this, the centrepiece of our table was a brick with a giant mutant vegetable of some kind on it, along with a sharpie. We spent quite a lot of time debating whether we were allowed to draw a face on the vegetable or if it was just there for decoration, left it, only to head over to see a friend at another table at the very end to discover that they had done exactly that with theirs. Opportunity lost, there.

  It is really very hard to describe this because it really was very odd. I particularly remember two things; A staff member leading me to the bathroom and having to take off his luminous jacket before we were in the eye sight of people eating in the brasserie which is completely unaffected - and to make it odder, the cheaper bit - and seeing two people having what seemed to be a romantic meal under a shelf with plans and hard hats hanging from it. But it's important to add that none of this is a criticism, I actually found the whole situation very, very funny. It was just so completely odd and unexpected and not at all what you expect from the OXO Tower, but I enjoyed the experience. And if you really didn't like it, you could still stare out at the view anyway, and if you weren't there for the food then wasn't that the real reason you were there?

  Let's get on to the actual food then...

For starters, I had the smoked salmon, served with golden beetroot, beans, chestnut, lemon thyme and vanilla dressing. It was very nice and had a lot of different flavours in it.

My friend had this pumpkin soup which I thought looked great. I was really tempted by this, especially as we're so close to Halloween, but as I'm about to go on a liquid food restriction I decided to save it and make it myself later on!

For my main I had this; wild mushroom and mozzarella risotto ball with celeriac, quince puree, and grilled king oyster mushrooms. I absolutely love mushrooms and will happily eat them raw straight out of the box throughout the day but these giant things were a new one to me. The risotto ball was also not at all what I was expecting, and I didn't love this course but I did appreciate it for being a little bit odd and it was certainly still nice.

For dessert I went with a dark chocolate and cinnamon pave, which was very very rich. I actually couldn't finish it because it was just too strong. Afterwards we got our petit fours which included little cookies and fudge - I enjoyed both but everyone agreed the fudge was especially delicious and we'd have actually preferred to have just had more of that for our dessert!

Overall a very odd night but still a very fun one. It managed to remain a surprisingly classy meal despite all the oddness going on around it, and I do like that they decided to just go with it rather than close it down for the three weeks. The food wasn't as strong as the other times I've been but it's still definitely a very good meal of a great quality and I like that they get creative with what they offer there. If you'd like to visit yourself then they get a recommendation for me - head over to their website to see the menus and if its out of your price range then they do do set menus for around £30 pretty frequently if you don't mind going at a slightly odd time!

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