It takes a certain confidence to try and overshadow St Paul's Cathedral.
Madison Restaurant and Bar has a panoramic view of the aforementioned London landmark, which gives credence to its claim to the best view in London. But this is a big call given the competition from the likes of the Heron Tower, Tower 42 and the Gherkin, not to mention the monstrosity of London Bridge, aka the Shard.
However you have to admit that the combination of one of the largest roof terraces in Europe coupled with a view of St Paul's in all its glory takes some beating. So how does it stack up as a restaurant?
Well, Madison isn’t short of customers. One New Change, on which it sits atop, is the premium brand shopping destination in the City, so in addition to your usual banker, broker or fund manager entertaining clients, there is a smattering of ladies that lunch and moneyed tourists, giving Madison a surprising diverse crowd. (Albeit, a well-funded one.) The waiting staff are mostly European and very attractive, and provide a slick and polished service that is the norm on the continent but still a relative novelty in the UK. The menu is a mix of Spanish influenced food – traditional and modern, including tapas – world dishes, and your classic grill offerings of burgers and steaks.
We were spoilt for starters as my host ordered all of her favourites, with a few more thrown in for good measure: Vietnamese popcorn squid (gorgeous) chorizo picante, bacalao, panko crumbs and sauce bravas, and last but by no means least the warm pumpkin salad with smoked mozzarella and pear. The creaminess of the mozzarella with the subtle smoked flavour was a winner. And, of course, there were breads and olives of all persuasions.
The main surprised us in that we hadn’t asked for it. A fillet steak cooked whole and carved at our table. I know that it’s a trick that Gaucho Grill and others have slightly cheapened through overuse, but when it’s done properly – as it was this time – it’s superb. The sweets surprise was a churros with a cappuccino crème dessert accompaniment. Despite the fact that I’m neither a fan of doughnuts or coffee-based desserts, it was absolutely delicious. We tried a selection of wines including the restaurants own Chardonnay (embarrassingly I forget the brand, but just ask them), which was as crisp and fresh as any you will find in my native New Zealand.
Madison has a buzz and ambiance that you find in any good City restaurant – especially on a Friday. However it does feel a little stark and cold, which is a consequence of the architecture. The dark angular steel frame is more akin to what you might find an art gallery restaurant, or dare I say, modern airport. They have done a good job of trying to soften these hard surfaces with eucalyptus wood flooring, carpet and colourful hand-blown Italian glass chandeliers. But you would never describe Madison as cozy. However the Madison team won’t be unduly bothered, as they have so many other things to offer.
And while it will only ever overshadow St Paul's in the literal sense, you have to admire the confidence of the place. As they say in Spain, Madison has Cojones.