Had a casual lunch with some friends in Butlers Wharf Chop House, we went for the set lunch in the bar area rather than the main restaurant. For a restaurant known for its meat, the set menu surprisingly did not include any, just a rather nice selection of vegetarian dishes and one fish dish.
For starters we had the Vegetable and Barley soup, tasty and very wintry, but as the sky was dark with rain, it rather suited the day. The Heritage Tomato salad was also delicious, so fresh it reminded one of my friends of her childhood eating tomatoes straight from the garden. I had the red onion and cheese tart which I really enjoyed, the onions were very sweet and the combinations just worked. The Ling and runner beans needed a side order to complete the dish and the perfectly cooked Jersey potatoes were ideal. For dessert we ordered the Knickerbocker glory (nothing special), but the Secretts Farm Plums, Praline and Vanilla ice cream was well received, even if it was difficult to eat from the glass bowl.
The service was also very good, the staff were friendly and efficient. The only time we had any issue was when we came to pay the bill and found the bar area empty of staff.
It was November the 5th – Fireworks night, a visit to Le Pont de la Tour next to Tower Bridge seemed like a good location to see some displays, and off course the bridge has some historical significance in the Guy Fox story. Alas the only fireworks were some drunken revellers outside the window putting on an impromptu display using sparklers. There were no fireworks inside on the food front either, the style and quality of the food was actually more reminiscent of their sister restaurant next door (the Chop House), which aims for a different market sector.
When we left, as the Restaurant was closing at about 11:45, (I had been there since 7:20, but more about that later) one of the waiters asked if we had a good evening. One of my companions replied “Yes, the Food was good, The Wine was good”, and tactfully omitted any mention of the service which had been pretty abysmal, causing us to still be in the restaurant at 11:45.
I had arrived at 7:20 and waited 10 minutes while “the Greeter” was on the phone dealing with enquiries about the restaurant. The Maitre d’apologised, took my coat and escorted me to the table. I noticed about 15 minutes later he was still carrying my coat as he took other people to their tables. My companions arrived, they too had felt invisible as they waited to be acknowledged, they spotted me and made their own way to the table. We were then quickly served Champagne – a freebie due to problems my companions had on a earlier visit. We were about to enjoy the Champagne, in fact I started drinking it (forgetting to smell it first) bad mistake – it was seriously corked. They replaced it with a better quality Champagne which was good. Our food order was taken, again after a fair gap. The Bread arrived about 15 minutes after that, a good hour after I had!. So you can imagine how hungry we were by the time the food arrived.
We shared a plate of 12 oysters, which we enjoyed. When the rest of the food arrived we found that several of the dishes, especially the Steak Tartar were under seasoned, so we had to ask for salt and pepper.
It was getting late by the time we got to the dessert/cheese course and we needed advice on wine matching, after conversations with several members of staff we finally got the sommelier, who recommended a lovely red dessert wine to go with our cheese. Unfortunately the cheese trolley had shrunk quite a bit by the time it arrived at our table, so we had to make do with a selection of what was left. There were no standout cheeses despite the menu descriptions, which had sounded so promising. However I am being picky now, as on the whole we did enjoy our evening it was just marred by the service.
I am afraid based on this visit that I have to class Le Pont de la Tour as one of these restaurants that relies too much on its location to attract custom (see Food Vent number 22). The Bar/Brasserie and the restaurant were both completely packed, which off course impacted on the service, but in general there did seem to be lots of staff and most off the issues we had were at the start off the evening when the restaurant was only half full.
The Bar in the Chop House in Butlers Wharf is a really civilised venue for breakfast, it is especially lovely on a sunny day when you can sit outside and watch the boats on the river, taking in the stunning views of Tower bridge. The menu is excellent, I would especially recommend the Gloucester Old Spot sausages. It is best to reserve a table for breakfast as this is a very popular venue.