City Social is a restaurant that I have wanted to go to for the longest of times, but was put on hold for a special occasion. When Michael’s and my 3-year anniversary rolled around, City Social seemed the perfect place to celebrate. With a 4.5 rating on tripadvisor from over 200 reviews, we thought it would be a solid bet for an overall great evening. Unfortunately for us, the food didn’t quite hit the mark we had hoped for.
Service: From the moment we arrived we received professional & polite service. A friendly greeter took our coats and we were swiftly shown to our table, which is when the first disappointment came, as we were taken to one of their booth-seat tables located in the centre of the restaurant, rather than the window table that we had requested. I of course asked if we could be moved, particularly as we were celebrating a special occasion, but was told, in not the friendliest of manners, that they cannot guarantee anyone a window table upon booking. Although I understand the reason for this, and that they must receive the same request numerous times daily, I did feel slightly taken aback by the way in which I was told. A few moments later, I spotted an available corner table further down the row of booth-seats, which I wanted to nab as we would at least then be seated closer to one another. I, annoyingly, asked once more if we would be able to move to that table, but was again told no as it was reserved for a group of 3, despite another corner table only being occupied by 2 diners. Accepting defeat, we got down to business; perusing the menu. A short while after the manager visited our table and offered us a window table for dessert, which I thought was a strong effort on their part to please their guests, for which we were both appreciative.
Water, bread & wine arrived promptly once the seating fiasco had been settled, and we began to relax and enjoy our beautiful surroundings. When it came to taking our orders, we encountered the next hiccup of the evening, as Michael wished to order a side of duck-fat chips with his main course, which the waiter told him was not possible as the restaurant was running low and the chef had asked that the staff not allow them to be ordered separately to a dish. I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten between a hungry man and his chips, but the facial reaction is not the prettiest. I guess under different circumstances of everything prior having run smoothly, this would not have been such unwelcome news, but it just seemed to add insult to a fresh injury, particularly as he was going to have to watch me devour mine (as they came with my dish). I asked the waiter if he could please ask the chef if they would be able to make an exception, all things considered, which, gratefully, they did. Although both very pleased that Michael was in fact going to get some chips, I have to say that we were both a little stunned that such a high quality restaurant could run out of such a cheap and commonly-ordered food. Had it been truffles I would have had (slightly) more understanding, but considering City Social is located bang in the centre of a city that never sleeps, I would have thought that getting their hands on a few bags of potatoes and slicing them into chips would be a much better solution than telling expectant guests they cannot have them.
The ordering of dessert also turned into a bit of a mishap, since it was 10:30 and I was suffering heavily from jet lag, we wished to order and eat fairly promptly. We chose to share the apple tarte tatin with vanilla ice-cream & caramel sauce for two, but around 8 minutes after having ordered, were told that there was none left. Seeing as the restaurant was mostly empty by this time I’m not entirely sure why we were not told this information sooner, or at the time of ordering, but ploughing on we returned to scanning the menu as I am a sweet-aholic and was simply not going to go home without dessert on my 3-year anniversary! Sadly none of the other options were really to our taste, but we settled for another option nonetheless.
The manager came good on his offer of a wonderful table at which to enjoy our dessert, with a stunning view of London & the Gherkin, which we were both very thankful for and was a really lovely setting to draw the evening to a close.
Upon paying the bill, we were also presented with a slice of City Social’s signature house cake to take home, which was both a sweet touch and surprisingly delicious (much better than our dessert!).
Ambience: City Social is a stunning restaurant. Located on the 24th floor of Tower 42 it offers beautiful panoramic views of London. The floor-to-ceiling windows encircling the restaurant allow both daylight and night time building lights to flood in and light up the interior, in a rather magical way.
The restaurant itself is well laid out, offering a row of booth-seat tables to couples; more private, circular booths to large groups; and an intimate, private dining experience for couples at their window tables.
There is a decent amount of space to move around the restaurant and the noise is of a pleasant level. The lighting is dim and romantic, and positioned to light up your food rather than your faces, which I always think is important in high-end restaurants. Neither of us could really fault the setting or the atmosphere, which we both found truly enjoyable.
Food: As for the food, Michael and I both ordered the yellow fin tuna tataki, cucumber salad, radish, avocado & ponzu dressing (£14.00) from the ‘Uncooked’ section to start.
The tuna was of a high quality and melted in your mouth, just as it should. The avocado & ponzu dressing was incredibly tasty and accompanied the tuna beautifully, however, it was totally overpowered in a mouthful with the pickled cucumber, which I do not thing belonged amongst the other, more delicate flavours on this plate. I also personally love ginger but there was an overwhelming amount in comparison to the other ingredients. In short, a lot more tuna, no gherkin & less ginger in future and this would be an excellent starter.
For mains, I ordered the whole Scottish lobster, duck-fat chips, salad & choron sauce (£38.00). I actually thought that this was a well-priced dish considering it included a whole lobster, to be eaten surrounded by gorgeous views of London.
Unfortunately, the lobster was slightly overdone and chewy, and fairly tasteless if I am to be perfectly honest. Seasoning & lashings of butter would have done wonders for this piece of shellfish. The choron sauce really saved the day on this front, as it was excellently executed and really dressed up the otherwise fairly naked lobster.
The duck-fat chips were another sore point for us both, particularly after the drama we had gone through to secure Michael a portion. I don’t think it’s hard to make good chips. I especially don’t think it’s acceptable for a highly-rated and expensive restaurant to not make good chips. Michael’s were underdone but they were otherwise simply nothing exciting; they did not have a crisp enough edge and were overly dense in the centre, and were seriously lacking salt. Thankfully the waiter was swift in responding to our request for the salt & pepper shakers! The ‘salad’ was nothing more or less than a bowl of lettuce; I feel that they could at least have added 1 or 2 other ingredients to transform it into an actual ‘salad’, or dressed it with something slightly more tasty than pure olive oil. Having said all of that, it was all perfectly & pleasantly edible (bar the salad), it just simply wasn’t what it should or could have been.
Michael went for the middle white pork loin and braised belly, cavelo nero, black pudding & cider gel (£26.00), accompanied by the lacklustre side-order of duck-fat chips.
Aside from having complete food envy of the steak placed in front of the diner at the table beside us, he found his pork dish “enjoyable but average”. As a Scotsman, Michael takes a fair bit of pride in his black pudding analysis, which apparently passed the test with flying colours. As for the pork, he found the belly to be juicy & tasty with a perfectly soft-crisp skin, in contrast with the loin, which was neither dry nor inspiring. The gravy was described to me as “tasteless”, but the cider gel came through in adding some flavour, although a simple apple sauce would have been preferred. The vegetables were well-cooked and the portion of meat considered “decent”, which says a lot coming from a man, but I would agree with his view that a carby side of some sort should be included in the dish.
For dessert, having been told (in a delayed fashion) that the apple tarte tartin was unavailable, we both chose the pistachio soufflé with chocolate sorbet (£8.50). An unusual choice for us both but seemingly the best of the bunch. With a 20-minute wait on the soufflés we took the opportunity to make the most of our new, improved table setting and wiled away the time nattering about everything & nothing.
Before we knew it the soufflés arrived.
Although it scores a 10 on appearance and size, what was hidden beneath the exploding chocolate lid was not quite as impressive.
A well-cooked soufflé in terms of execution, it lacked both texture & any kind of a pistachio flavour. Unfortunately, the only thing that either of us could really taste was egg! We were in high spirits and found this fairly amusing at the time, but it isn’t exactly what you want from a dessert or at the end of a meal. The chocolate sorbet was definitely the shining star on the plate.
We washed down all of the meal with a bottle of red – ‘Cinsault, Gallardia del Itata, De martino, Chile, 2013’ (£32.00), which we both thought was totally exquisite and good value. Regrettably for City Social it was the only thing they didn’t make!
Price: The total bill came to £158.63 including 12.5% service, for two starters; mains; and desserts & a bottle of red wine (they kindly did not charge us for Michael’s duck-fat chips). For the setting, service, ambience and menu, with a smooth-running evening and well-executed dishes, we thought this would be a fair price. Yet sadly the food was not of the same calibre as its surroundings, so we found the evening over-priced.
Michael and I managed to have a really lovely evening and anniversary despite the hiccups and disappointments by swiftly sweeping them under the rug as soon as they arose but, to be honest, City Social really didn’t meet our expectations or match the great reviews that we had read. Obviously we may have had a very unfortunate experience, but this is simply the one that we had. If you get a chance to go, I hope yours is better & would love to hear if it is.