Columbia Restaurant and Bar, Double Tree Hilton, Canary Wharf
A lunch that began by crossing the glistening River Thames on a crisp and sunny afternoon couldn't have been more of what I needed...
It's been a good few months since I've been able to enjoy the sun shining on my face again, let alone any kind of water excursion or boat trips. Stepping off the ferry and into the Double Tree Hilton Hotel felt as though I was saying goodbye to the constant hustle and bustle of London life and arriving in a new destination. No streets to clip-clop down, crowds of people to dodge, I did have some google map issues with getting to the pier but it didn't feel like I was in London anymore.
Columbia Restaurant and Bar is located at the Double Tree Hilton which directly faces the shining silver grandiosity of the Canary Wharf skyline. The River Thames separates these two neighbours and guests can easily travel back and forth with a small ferry that the hotel provides. I was visiting the Columbia Restaurant for lunch, but I can imagine that the view at night is even more spectacular with all the bright lights from the restaurants and offices at Canary Wharf and then their reflection onto the water. If you've ever been to the Dubai Marina at night, you'll know how breath-taking this can be and adds a whole other dimension to fine dining.
At Columbia, you'll find an excellent selection of British classics such as Beer Battered Cod, Burgers, Steaks and hints of Mediterranean cuisine like lamb, halloumi, chicken chorizo burger, and devonshire crab on sourdough toast, an option that felt very appropriate with a view of the boats passing by. I studied the menu with a glass of the house white wine: a cool, crisp Sauvignon Blanc. I didn't have any problems choosing from the menu and went for a three-course lunch. To start, I chose the Black Pudding Scotch Egg with Crispy fried hen egg with soft herbs and piccalilli. For the mains, a 28 day dry-aged 8oz of beef fillet, medium cooked, with a red wine sauce, served with triple cooked chips, vine tomatoes and an extra side of market vegetables. For dessert, it had to be the Sticky Toffee Pudding with butterscotch sauce and salted caramel ice cream.
The Black Pudding Scotch Egg Crispy fried hen egg with soft herbs and piccalilli
As a child, my 'Great British Picnic' was never complete without a box of scotch eggs. Their unique composition bears a strong resemblance to the delicious Sicilian Arancini that I tasted in Palermo. One uses a meat sauce, and the other wields a soft egg core but both are cleverly encased in pork fat and deep fried to produce a very pleasing taste and texture. As rich and calorific as this recipe sounds, I've recently found a number of healthier alternatives such as a Mushroom Scotch Egg when I visited Grill Market. (You can read about this here). This Black Pudding Scotch Egg was everything you crave from a full english breakfast achieved in one delicate bite. The yolk was cooked perfectly, not runny or over-cooked but soft and just slightly runny in the centre. The layer of black pudding that enveloped the egg was not greasy and this was equally the case with the delicate and slightly crispy outer layer. The piccalili, a favourite british chutney that uses pickled vegetables provided a superb balance to the other components in the scotch egg. There were moments of sweetness which lifted the richer texture of the yolk and black pudding.
The 28 day dry-aged fillet beef (8oz) with triple cooked chips, red vine tomatoes a red wine sauce and a side of market vegetables.
They use Scottish beef at Columbia and this definitely shone through in the quality of freshness and taste of the fillet. The 8oz size was the perfect amount with the triple cooked chips, vine tomatoes and side of market vegetables. I usually ask for meat to be cooked rare or medium rare but on this occasion I requested for it to be medium cooked as I was breaking my first week of no meat. The thought of revisiting meat again with a rare fillet was a bit daunting!
The fillet had a nice smoky flavour and was not chewy or too heavy following a starter. The famous triple cooked chips are made from scratch and I can see why Head Chef Raj was so proud of them. They were truly heavenly, but I could only eat a couple before I started to feel full. The red wine sauce I chose to accompany the beef was light, fragrant and I loved the small pot it was served in. I did feel however that it could have done with being just a bit thicker so that it could coat the beef more. It was also a lovely sauce to soak the chips in. The side of market vegetables were cooked to the right amount, something I've always found to be a hot topic of debate, and I discovered a lovely hint of butter towards the end of the meal. Altogether, a very pleasant main course.
Sticky Toffee Pudding with Butterscotch Sauce and Salted Caramel Ice Cream
Sticky Toffee Pudding has never been a favourite dessert of mine. I’m not even entirely sure why I chose it to be honest. I think that my recent turn towards sweet and salty combinations which have led to shamelessly devouring an entire bag of Sweet and Salty ‘Poshcorn’ and opting for Salted Caramel cupcakes instead of the now boring original flavours of chocolate or vanilla may have had something to do with it. The Restaurant Gods must have secretly been telling me to choose the Sticky Toffee Pudding over the Chocolate Pot, Apple and Blueberry Crumble (always a favourite of mine) or the Bitter-sweet Panna Cotta and they were definitely on my side.
My initial concerns with all-time favourite desserts like Sticky Toffee Pudding is that the cake might be dry, tasteless or that sweetness of the sauce will dominate and overpower flavour. The brilliance of the Sticky Toffee Pudding at Columbia began from its foundation, and then became better and better with each layer and bite. The cake itself, a simple soft, fluffy vanilla was beautiful. The magic of its texture came from the uneven distribution of the Butterscotch Sauce, something that is rarely advantageous with baking. It was as though the Butterscotch sauce had almost gravitated towards the centre of the cake so that there were different stages of gooeyness starting from the outer corners, the most gooey parts, and had then attempted to make its way to the centre, saturating the sponge in each sweet step.
I'd like to tell you that I was too full to finish this, but I'd be lying. I almost finished the whole thing and it was so delicious that I could have actually eaten it without the salted caramel ice cream.
The restaurant's interior full was full of warm hues of gold, copper, oranges and reds and I loved the red-brick walls. There wasn't any music to add to this beautiful setting and relaxed ambiance and I felt some slow blues or jazz might have added to this unique setting in London overlooking the River Thames.
Overall, I had a lovely lunch at Columbia and I think their menu offered enough great choice for everyone. I really appreciated the creativity and flair in certain elements of presentation and also the unique creations that were featured on the menu. I would love to see more of this creativity in the dishes such as in the beef dishes as it would help to give the restaurant more of its own personality.
A big thank you to the Head Chef Raj, Sam and the rest of the team for a beautiful lunch.
To find out more about Columbia Restaurant and Bar at the Double Tree Hilton in Canary Wharf:
Columbia Restaurant and Bar Facebook Page
Columbia Restaurant and Bar Twitter
Columbia Restaurant and Bar Instagram