Disclaimer: The meal and drinks were provided to us for purposes of review, however my opinions are my own and unbiased, as always.
I must make a confession up front, I rarely go to Canary Wharf. Despite starting my career there many moons ago at Thomson Reuters, since leaving that job in 2006 I have only been back once, until now to review the restaurant at One Canada Square Restaurant and Bar and am I glad I did.
Making our way to Canary Wharf on the DLR line from Bank, the towering skyline emerges, adorned with glowing logo marques of HSBC, Barclays, Citi and others until you dock in the station.
It always struck me, even eight years ago, that the space used for atriums in One Canada Square was a bit of a waste. Large marble walls around two or three stories high that serve no purpose but to say to visitors “here is where success lives”. And it does, given that 100,000 people work in Canary Wharf itself.
Thankfully, the space was transformed into the One Canada Square Restaurant and Bar 18 months ago by Ed and Tom Martin (The ETM Group) who are responsible for some great locations around London including one of my favourites, The Botanist in Sloane Square.
Personally, I loved the space. My wife Kirsty and I went on a Friday evening and the restaurant on the ground floor was buzzing with a live pianist and a full bar of Wharfers enjoying post-work cocktails.
In fact, on further investigation, One Canada Square Restaurant and Bar won 2014 UK Best Restaurant in a Retail Space in the annual Restaurant & Bar Design Awards and I’m not surprised, it is really clever use of space that transforms an otherwise elaborately bare atrium into something interesting.
Our host for the evening, Logan (the One Canada Square Restaurant and Bar bar manager) was incredibly welcoming, talked us through the history of the restaurant and explained every aspect of the food, the cocktails, the ethos of the owners and the different elements of what was undoubtedly a fully thought-through and well executed experience.
We started with three expertly crafted cocktails:
Texan Punch – Woodford Reserve, Antica formula, maraschino liqueur and peach liqueur
Samurai Sour – Hakushu 12 Year Old, lemon, sugar, Angostura bitters and plum bitters
Spiced Monkey – Monkey Shoulder, Heineken, S-T. Germain, Cointreau, ginger, lemon, egg white
All were great, but Kirsty preferred the Samurai Sour where I definitely leaned to the refreshing Spiced Monkey with the Texan Punch being potentially a tad sweet for us. I could have a good few of the Spiced Monkey without doubt!
The mixologist serving us, David, then took us through a flight of rums after he discovered that I have never really given rum a chance. Neither of us expected to find a set of rums that we actually enjoyed, not having tried any super premium releases or really paid much attention to the liquid at all before, but we did in Don Papa, El Dorado 12 and Diplimatico. Wow.
After a quick sample of Hibiki 17, we were taken to our table and advised as to which dishes Logan would recommend we try, I also took his suggestions of whisky pairings for each course settled in to the lively atmosphere and great live music.
Historically, I’ve always thought of Canary Wharf as soulless and devoid of much buzz post-6pm when all the workers leave but One Canada Square Restaurant and Bar has seemingly changed that and, along with Boisdale’s, are breaking down the perception of the place being sterile and transforming it into a viable destination for a great meal and great scenery with great liquid to match.
Chef prepared us venison tartare to start, paired with Auchentoshan Triple Wood which went perfectly. The rich meat was balanced by an array of spices and berries that complimented the flavour more than we would have expected.
For main Kirsty had the scallop and shrimp burger – wow – with hand cut chips and I had the fish and chips, the fish being fresh from Billingsgate Market that morning paired with Bowmore 15 Year Old, a nice touch.
The fish was succulent, the mashy peas encourageable and the burger moreish, One Canada Square Restaurant and Bar really has put together a most enjoyable meal whether you are celebrating, simply enjoying a night out with your other half or taking clients somewhere to impress.
By desert we were stuffed but managed to wedge in ice cream and a creme brûlée between us which was a lovely way to end the meal.
Overall it was a great evening, the atmosphere was pleasant, the service was attentive and assured, and the look and feel of the place was inspirational especially using the inside of the architectural pillars to rack up the sprawling whisky stock amongst other spirits.
It has definitely made me reappraise my lack of visits to Canary Wharf and will definitely be going back.
Wow what an evening from the attentive staff to the impressive menu – which ended up with having to take Logan’s recommendation – I simply couldn’t make my mind up as everything sounded so enticing to the modern non-judgemental buzz which I have only felt on rare occasions when in a bar in Canary Wharf.
My pre-determined opinion was wrong. On the train on the way over I could feel the personality of Canary Wharf weighing heavily on my shoulders. I love London but socialising in the financial district of London is something I have avoided. Suits, showing off, ‘the missus’ references just don’t appeal to me.
I’m happier in a bustling bar around Great Portland Street with lots of media/design folk or out in the queen of the suburbs (Ealing for those of you who don’t know) catching up with friends around a bottle of red. But I was wrong to assume One Canada Square wouldn’t be for me.
On arrival the cocktails (all whisky based) were a real treat. Having Greg as my husband has meant I have been invited to a lot of whisky events – mainly because whisky brands try to get more women to drink the male dominated spirit. Their usual tactic is to add fruit juice and berries! Utterly patronising. David, Assistant Bar Manager, and the team have constructed such an amazing selection of whisky cocktails which honour the spirit they are showcasing and create truly amazing combinations.
The food blew me away, both in terms of the variety on the menu and exciting dishes which arrived. The pianist to accompany the meal really made for a great atmosphere. So in short I loved it and would definitely return – maybe next time with the girls for their infinity lunch!
Address: One Canada Square Restaurant and Bar, E14 5AB
Tel: 020 7559 5199
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 7am-midnight, Sat 9am-midnight, Sunday closed.
Expected cost for three courses, cocktails and a bottle of wine around £175 for two.