Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Lottie's birthday dinner - Rhodes 24

Wednesday, April 9th 2008

IMG_8724 We were out on this Wednesday night (a little while back now) for Lottie's 21st birthday dinner, London version. Current family logistics dictate a separate Becca-inclusive Manchester event at some later date: watch this space. So this was a Lottie, Jake, Marfs, my Dear Wife Bless Her and myself production.

We went to Rhodes 24, which not unreasonably is a Gary Rhodes restaurant on the 24th floor. Of what, do I hear you ask? Of Tower 42, the tallest building in the City of London. Older persons may remember it under its former name of the NatWest Tower but there's been no NatWest there for quite a while.

You can see me referring indirectly to a work-related visit there a while back: that led quite directly to our booking last night after a pretty unequivocal intervention from the Iarlles Loötës herself.

We met in the foyer and were booked in, given pass cards and processed through quite serious visitor security. I suppose this is surprising for a restaurant, but less so for an iconic tower: after all the BT Tower's restaurant has been closed to the public for many years now, the result, they claim, of security concerns. (Yeah right.)

We zoomed up to the 24th floor and were quickly shown to our table right by the floor-to-ceiling glass wall. The view was incredible.

IMG_8701I will confess that I had checked on the time of sunset, and booked the table for when it would still, just, be daylight when we arrived so that we could watch the transition through twilight to full darkness. If you feel that you detect a note of smugness here then all I can say is yup. It worked like a charm. Even if it had not also been also one of the very best meals I've ever enjoyed, it would still have been worth the (not inconsiderable) cost just to be allowed to watch this absolutely staggering view of London for several hours.

The view contained - well, pretty much everything, really. It's always nice to go "I can see our house from up here" and while it wasn't quite true, you could certainly see the TV mast at Ally Pally. Closer, lots of wonderful things started by looking great then got even better as it got dark and lights came on all over: of particular note here was the "Gherkin", 30 St Mary Axe, which was surprisingly close by and which really did look absolutely gorgeous in its night-time colours.

This being the event it was we started with champagne, and very pleasant it was too. Then with the meal itself we had an extremely passable St Julien. (I understand that some sort of white wine may also have been purchased but I mean good grief Biggles.) Foodwise, sadly I cannot remember what everyone else had but I did make a rough note of mine, and maybe the Birfday Gril will oblige with a commentette on her or her young gentleman's meal?

Anyway, my starter was something exquisite and truly delicious involving smoked eel. I'm always a bit odd about eel. (Well actually I'm a bit odd about lots of food - how long have you got?) I think that over the years eel has somehow got misfiled in "snakes", which is just ridiculous. This was a perfectly fishy, delicate and delicious starter and I'd quite like another one right now please.

My main course was beef rib and cottage pie, the latter an exquisite miniature. One day I maybe ought to stop very predictably going for the nicest-sounding beef dish on any posh menu - but on the other hand, why should I? This rather stolid tactic has served me well in the past and, my word, it did so on 9th April too. Utterly utterly wonderful. Ah yes, I've just been reminded that Jake had this too: I think it was one of those order-for-two/carved-at-the-table things.

IMG_8729-1 My dessert was that delicious cliché the "trio of crèmes brûlées". I've had a major soft spot for this almost-joke since I first came across it in a lovely restaurant just off the Triangle in Bristol a few years back. On that occasion it was excitingly accompanied by a stern lecture on eating them in the right order. No, really. Gary Rhodes and his Rhodettes didn't go that far but even lacking the drama it was scrumptious anyway. This time the flavours were vanilla, passion fruit and Baileys and they went down very nicely indeed thank you very much.

The service, by the way, was perfect. Perfect I tell you - not just "OK" or even "very good". They had that magical knack of vanishing when not required and reappearing about half a second before you've finished formulating the thought that you want something. Then they very efficiently see to whatever it is that you wanted, with just the right measures of charm, familiarity, formality and so on, and then vanish again. I've been in plenty of restaurants with scarily over-attentive staff and others where, as Tom Waits charmingly puts it, “you can't find your waitress/with a Geiger counter". This place just gets it right and makes it look easy as they do so. I suspect that actually they are using some form of very short-range time travel or at least precognition: it's the only explanation that makes sense.

Even great meals come to an end (what idiot writes this stuff?) so after the odd coffee and/or liqueur we were off back to the Hills of Muswell. Yeah, by cab, you bet: drink had indeed been taken and I can't really imagine how else it would work, as there was no queue of eager volunteers to be the designated driver for this rather jolly event.

What a wonderful dinner, what an absolutely fantastic evening. Happy Birthday that Lottifer.