I know I get a tad confused after a hard day's lunching but it's pushing the boundaries of wishful thinking to get the Nat West Tower mixed up with the Post Office Tower. Luckily I checked the address before I skipped gaily off to Twenty Four for dinner but I was still disappointed to find the restaurant wasn't in the nice knobbly, revolving tower near Tottenham Court Road. Instead it's on the twenty fourth floor of a big black monolith in the city. But whatever - we all know it's not size that counts - it's the view.
The first time I went for dinner the food was good, grown-up fare but the twinkling night lights of Essex begin to pall after a while - if you're over five. There's a distinct lack of street life in the city after dark. It's so deserted that you could easily imagine there had been a nuclear holocaust and everybody else was dead but for three women and forty merchant bankers. Not a bad way to go, though.
So I went again for lunch, taking along the gorgeous Harry who can flatter at international level.
The view is more spectacular by daylight but, generally, East London is no panoramic picture postcards. I had been in Rome the day before, eating lunch high above the city in the Cavalieri Hilton with the Vatican kissing my feet. Understandably, helping Harry pick out his house next to the Arsenal stadium didn't have quite the same thrill.
In any case, we were sitting on the half-moon banquettes at the back of the restaurant which Harry felt was like being in a central aisle seat on a Jumbo Jet. Window tables are not guaranteed, nor - as I discovered when we arrived, do they seat parties of two by the window unless the restaurant is unusually quiet (or you go with the restaurant's PR). Lovers hoping for a romantic view should take a couple of chaperones. Or network.
Starters are heavily biased towards fish and seafood which is no bad thing if you need to work in the afternoon instead of snoozing your way home on the Central line. I started with Lasagne of wild mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes which arrived as a small cocoon nestling between two sheets of pasta. A kind of lazy woman's lasagne, or an elegantly assembled dish depending on your expectations. It was fairly restrained and spare of flavour despite the accompanying pepper sauce, but enjoyable enough in an underwhelming sort of way. It was like one of those slim, smart, modern novels without a plot that you never get the point of but which look clever on the coffee table.
Harry had foie gras and chicken liver parfait which was
agreeably creamy and enlivened by a strong rearing black stallion kick of
liquor. He ate it with a plentiful supply of wonderful sun-dried tomato rolls
and squares of toasted brioche.
Next I had pan fried dorade swimming in a sea of citrus dressing which lapped around the edges of a gorgeous gothic purple mash topped with a mound of red chard. Lovely style and oodles of substance. It looked great, tasted better and had just the right combination of achingly calorific carbohydrates and glistening, let's pretend it isn't butter-drenched fish.
It was a difficult but good choice. They also had pot roasted pigeon on the menu which I enjoyed so much at Chez Nico (where the chef Jeremy Ford once worked). but that was like the perfect one night stand. You don't want to risk a repeat performance for fear of disappointment - and then you'd have nothing to dream about on the Circle Line.
Harry had lamb noisettes wrapped in a golden flake of pastry accompanied by a too dry, pea mousse. It was good but not the kind of thing to drive me wild with excitement, though Harry praised it enthusiastically. Another one for the coffee table, I thought.
To follow, he had a selection of small anonymous slivers of French cheeses already arranged on a plate and I opted for the plum tart tatin - a generous circle of caramelised pastry cradling three baked plums and drenched with the kind of butterscotch sauce that screams sugar at the top of its voice. But hey, I have children - I can tune out loud, disagreeable noises. Sadly the plums were less biddable. The flesh clung to the stones like a child with separation anxiety making eating a difficult task.
Not a bad experience, however, taking into account the added value of the view. It's executive food - satisfactory, speedy and with pleasant efficient service - even if it promises more than it delivers.
Exactly like the silver tongued Harry, in fact. As we left he clutched my hand and told me his toes had been tingling all the way through lunch. Oh goodie, I thought, imagining my presence was having a magical, erotic effect on him.
Unfortunately, it turns out to have been a panic attic. It seems he suffers from vertigo.