Sunday, 14 August 2011

Restaurant Review: Le Pont De La Tour

Good fish and bad burgers at this pretty Thames-side spot. Read about the meal of two-halves in this review, which was originally written for Blue Tomato magazine.

Part of the D&D group previously owned by Terence Conran, Le Pont De La Tour takes up much of the Butler’s Wharf complex at Shad Thames. It boasts a deli, a wine shop, a fine-dining restaurant and this, the more laid back Le Pont De La Tour bar & grill. We’ve read mixed reviews and heard both good and bad things of this tourist friendly French restaurant on the Thames just by Tower Bridge, so are interested to make up our own opinion.

Our waitress is friendly and efficient as she guides us to the right part of the maze-like restaurant complex giving a good first impression that is bolstered by the riverside seating 

on an uncharacteristically warm evening. As food is ordered, it’s clear that the staff are all equally efficient if not always so friendly with it. A towering fruits de mer platter (£30) shared between two can’t do much for sea stocks, but makes a luxurious starter. Oysters, cockles, whelks, clams, mussels, prawns, shrimp and crab are full of flavour and well cooked. Accompanying mayonnaise, shallot vinegar and sourdough are equally spot-on.

Falling in love with the place, main courses bring us down to earth with a bang. In fact, we still can’t quite comprehend that they’ve come from the same kitchen. Acrab lasagnetastes re-heated and would be better described as “mush”. There’s a lot of crab in there, there’s no skimping, it’s just a shame that it’s had all its flavour cooked out of it (we suspect in a microwave…). The burger comes recommended, so surely must be better? Actually, it will go down in history as one of the strangest things Blue Tomato has come across. Pink throughout, it looks almost raw but is tough, dry and chewey as if hugely over-cooked. And don’t even get us started on the taste. The closest thing we could liken it to is a frankfurter from a tin. We politely check with the waiter that it is indeed beef. He’s adamant that it is, and even mentions the wholesaler by name (direct meats, if you’re interested). We’re not convinced, but at least the chips are good.

Dessert follows in an attempt to cleanse the palate. Poached rhubarb with lemon curd and shortbreadis as simplistic and wacky as it sounds, but thoroughly enjoyable. As we might hope from a French restaurant, though, the cheese trolley is the way to go. You’ll have to go inside if you want to choose as health & safety forbids it to be taken outside, but it’s worth the effort as there’s a good few unusual offerings amongst the regulars. A strong, gooey epoisses just about gets rid of the frankfurter aftertaste, though the mental torment of wondering just what in this world would create such a burger is sure to haunt us for some time yet.

Go for the seafood, the riverside location, an extensive wine list and the cheese trolley and you won’t be disappointed. Take caution if you’re ordering main courses though, and whatever you do, don’t order the frankfurter hash which they call a burger.

Le Pont De La Tour, 36d Shad Thames, SE1 2YE

>> originally published in Blue Tomato magazine

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