A complete gem, hidden away right on the river bank at Tower Hill. Amazing staff and chefs who will do what they can to make your night magical. Perfect for nights where you want a little something special from your meal.
I’m not sure everyone would agree with me, but I think that the Tower Hill / St Katherine’s Docks area is a very under-utilised social hub in the City. Only five minutes or so (scenic) walk from Tower Hill tube or DLR stations, the docks area is thriving with restaurants, bars and cafes that are buzzing with atmosphere and boast some amazing views. The Guoman Tower Hotel is situated just behind the docks area, right on the banks of the Thames and literally next to Tower Bridge.
The Brasserie restaurant is set at the front of the hotel, fronted with windows that look out at an amazing view over the river. The atmosphere inside is very calming and relaxed. I went there with my lovely co-founder Jack and the place was bright enough to feel relaxed meeting friends, but I think if you were to take someone here for a romantic meal – it would certainly fit the bill (and score you some major points). The place is decorated in quite modern and simple style, with lots of clean lines, light colours and slightly rigid furniture. However, it still pulls off a welcoming feel with non-pretentious artwork, dark wooden tables and non-invasive lighting.
Prepare yourself for this one as it’s quite extensive. We tried seven different dishes in total, with drinks pairings to match!
Our first dish was one of the signature dishes that the restaurant has to offer – goats cheese doughnuts. Yes, that’s right, I haven’t lost the plot. When we were told what we were getting, I was absolutely dreading it, but I was pleasantly surprised. The doughnuts were of a fluffy, light, non-greasy consistency. To add in the missing sweet elements, the dish was served with a caramel mousse, beetroot compote and caramelised pecan nuts. These sweet treats combat the bitterness of the cheese and create the perfect harmony of sweet, salty and savoury in your mouth. Whether you like goats cheese or not (I don’t), like beetroot or not (I don’t) or like doughnuts or not (I don’t), I seriously urge you to try this dish and there is a good chance you will absolutely love it (I do).
We then moved on to sample one of the pasta dishes. The lobster ravioli looked a little on the small side when it came out, I’m not going to lie to you. But … it most certainly delivered on flavour. The ravioli itself was made from a squid ink pasta – for those of you who haven’t experienced squid ink as an ingredient, it isn’t the sloppy, messy product that it sounds like. It is an ingredient that is most commonly added to pasta or rice, particularly in the Mediterranean and is a welcome addition, particularly to fish dishes, where it enhances the flavour. The lobster-filled pasta was accompanied by a lobster bisque, which was packed with flavour, not fishy flavour as some may fear, but strong, exciting earthy tastes. On top of this sat a juicy king prawn and it was topped with a sea foam and sea vegetables. Overall the dish was very light and concentrated on delivering a true taste experience rather than quantity – exactly what fine dining should deliver when pulled off correctly.
Next up was a palate cleanser. We were served a mango sorbet with a fruity coulis, served in a martini glass. This was then topped up with some chilled prosecco, which provided much-needed balance to the sweet/sharp contrast.
For our main course, we were given a duck dish – much to my delight. Duck is one of those dishes that really excels in a finer restaurant, where they are not afraid to cook it right. The Barbary duck was served up pink in the middle and cooked perfectly at the edges. Accompanying the meat was a bundle of sweet delights, as duck goes so well with sweet partners. The mountain of red cabbage was fantastic as many restaurants focus too much on the meat and carbs and with a vegetable as sweet and sticky as slow cooked red cabbage, you want as much as possible. Added to this were almond dumplings. These were great in a very ‘modern twist on retro cooking’ kind of way. They reminded me of dinners cooked by my Nan, only half of the fat content and double the flavour (it’s OK she doesn’t know how to use a computer so will never find out I said it). All of this was brought together by a clementine foam and segments.
The final three dishes were all desserts – because that’s how we roll!
First up was the steamed chocolate nut cake. This was Jack’s favourite dessert and one of their most popular options, but it was my least favourite. The steamed chocolate nut cake was nice, it was kind of like a more moist, lighter version of a brownie and as it was served hot was sticky and warming in that unique way that only hot chocolate cake is. This was accompanied by a sesame biscuit filled with a pistachio mousse. This mousse was genuinely the only think I can say that I didn’t like about the whole meal. The taste was overbearing and that is coming from someone who like pistachios and pistachio ice cream etc. As the cake was served with a vanilla ice cream I don’t think the mousse/biscuit is even needed, but I understand they are creating textures and layers with it.
Next was the key lime parfait. I am a big fan of key lime, but often find that in its pie format, the biscuit layer takes so much away from the main element,but this was minimal on this plate. That is why this parfait is perfect. Semi-frozen, it is like a little block of lime ice cream, managing to stay both creamy and zesty. Matched up with a coconut espuma, aka a coconut cream and a cranberry meringue, this dessert is perfect for those who have a sweet tooth but like the more exotic flavours.
The last dish was a dessert of dumplings made from cheese. Sounds a bit odd I know, but Quark is a type of non-fat cream cheese (very popular with those following the Slimming World diet plan) and is great to use in cooking as it is thick in texture but mild in flavour. This was accompanied by strawberries macerated in balsamic vinegar and wine. Again, balsamic is often frowned upon as an ingredient in sweet dishes, but it helps to really bring out the sweet, syrupy flavour of the stories. The dish was then finished off with vanilla ice cream, which married it all together.
Most of my reviews contain a small mention of the staff as they are part and parcel of a restaurant. But this place has to be recognised for its really great team of people. The staff are friendly and welcoming, knowledgeable and passionate and will talk to you as much or as little as you wish. Feel free to ask them about the make up of the dishes or their recommendations and pairing and they will be completely honest with you. It is a team that feel like they genuinely get pleasure out of you having a good time, a nice change from your average server who is just looking to score a tip.
Overall, whilst this place isn’t cheap, the quality is amazing and the dishes can take you on a real taste exploration. As I said in the intro, it is the perfect location to go for a significant occasion or to make a real impression on someone. The chefs are passionate and it transfers into their food, so for a night of great cuisine, beautiful views and a relaxed but classy atmosphere. Head to The Brasserie and let them know we sent you!
Prices and deals
Prices are not cheap by any means, but you are certainly getting fine food for your money. You will be looking at around £7-£8 for a starter, around £15 for a lunch main or £20 for a dinner main and £6-£7 for a dessert.
If you want to get more bang for your buck, then head down to the Brasserie for lunch or an early dinner. You can enjoy a 3 course set menu including a glass of wine and tea or coffee with one of the most romantic views in London. Served daily until 7pm – £25 per person.
The Tower, St Katharine’s Way, London, E1W 1LD
Phone: 0871 376 9036
Fax (if anyone still owns one of those): 0871 376 9136