The Martin brothers have done it again, though I admit that I was nervous when I first heard about One Canada Square.
The brothers’ ETM group has made its mark on London’s dining scene by creating City pubs with a country feel (or gastro-pubs), including two of my personal favourites of the genre, The Jugged Hare and the Chiswell Street Dining Rooms. So when I heard that their latest restaurant, One Canada Square, was located in the reception area of the Canary Wharf Tower, I wondered how and if they could recreate the magic of their other places.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with the tower, the reception floor is an unforgivingly modern space which does what it says on the box: it welcomes you to a skyscraper. For those of you unfamilar with the wharf, dining experiences there tend to be of the upmarket fast-food variety (e.g. Pret a Manager, Eat, and Wabi) or the upmarket chain restaurants.
To give this space some spice, the ETM guys have pulled in the help of the David Collins studio, who brought in a 1920s-inspired design that makes a grand staircase its central feature, and adds Canary Wharf-friendly touches. So you have ribbed-detail upholstery in ox-blood leather for the bar, and British racing green for the dining room, teamed with herringbone-patterned table-tops and oak timber flooring. Its hardly ‘Great Gatsby-esque’ in terms of styling, but it is light years away from the reception space that it occupies.
The menu ranges from the raw – ceviches and tartares – through to the classic game-based food that ETM has made its signature. Big food and an even bigger wine list; perfect for the Wharfies and visiting City types.
After starting with a cheeky Prosecco (my new thing is to try the best non-champagne glass of sparkle instead of a cheaper version of the real thing), we ordered the yellowfin tuna tartare with spiced avocado and black pepper dressing, and the langoustines, as recommended by our delightful, and very knowledgeable young waitress. Deciding on the wine pairing route, we had a Riesling Tesch 2012 to accompany the tuna, and a Chassagne-Montrachet ‘Les clents de Chien’ 2010 for the langoustines. The tartare was sharp and well balanced by the notes of avocado and gorgeous dressing. The langoustines (or ‘langos’, to use the waitress’s parlance) were beautifully sweet, and succulent in texture. The accompanying wines were delightful. I’d never tried a Chassagne-Montrachet, which I agreed with our waitress was a far superior version of a Chardonnay.
For mains we opted for the Peterhead cod, clams, seashore vegetables and butter sauce accompanied by the Puligny Montrachet ‘Les Enseigneres’ 2010, and the game pie special with a Torbeck 2004 Barossa Valley. The cod dish was beautifully balanced and well seasoned. The game pie, was a big dish with big, bordering on offal-like, meats, that tasted like something you would find served at Downton Abbey. (And I mean that as a compliment.) The Sticky Toffee pudding and Baked Alaska for desserts with Tokaj late harvest 2011 were the perfect way to finish off the meal. The restaurant, on a nippy Friday lunchtime, was full of the mostly male, suited-and-booted punters that the ETM group have made their own. The service was faultless, with our waitress being an exemplary employee, despite her relative youth.
One Canada Square was never going to be like the ETM group’s other pubs. But that was never its intention. However, through clever use of the space, and by bringing their now-trademark levels of food, service and ambience to the Wharf, they have created a gorgeous brasserie that perhaps marks a new departure for the Martin brothers. I had no need to be nervous.