Journalists are told not to use terms like “breathtaking” as how often does something actually take your breath away? I’ve found a place where the phrase rings true though. Upon surfacing from the lifts to the restaurant 40/30 and the bar at the top of the Gherkin you really are left momentarily forgetting to breathe in and out. First of all there is the architectural wonder that is the Lord Foster designed Gherkin with its steel sloping supports that curve into a tip that you stand under and sip champagne. Then, there are the sensational panoramic views across London from the O2 stadium, to Tower Bridge to the winding Thames and Houses of Parliament it is all there laid out like a lego land.
Views like these don’t come cheaply, the only way to access 40/30 is through a whopping £750 a year membership fee, or by a more circuitous route of knowing someone who works in the building. Workers from the Gherkin are allowed to bring guests and bypass the private membership requirement which is good news for those of us without a spare £750 lying around. Rumour has it you can also blag your way in, just remember to bring photo id for the security guards and be prepared to have your belongings x-rayed by an airport style machine.
The restaurant has a modern, distinctly corporate feel to it with shiny black floors and black leather chairs that could have come straight from an office meeting room a few floors below. You could call it minimalist but I am sure the main incentive is keeping things neutral to focus on the amazing views. This is fine dining and tables are laid with linen while a bowl of tiny radishes, asparagus and cherry tomatoes with olive tapenade is one of several amuse bouches. As soon as we finish nibbling the tender but tiny asparagus spears our second amuse bouche arrives, a tiny blini topped with a quenelle of smoked salmon and surrounded by even tinier cubes of cucumber and artistic splodges of oil which will serve some more than others.
Beetroot and goats cheese salad
The desserts continued on in the French theme with macarons and chocolate fondants on offer. The fruit tart was fresh and summery with its berry topping and soft, crumbly pastry case. It was served with pistachio ice-cream which seemed like a slightly bizarre combination so we asked to change it to plain old vanilla which was no problem. I couldn’t go past the amazing cheese trolley though (£6 supplement) which was on a par with the famous Chez Bruce trolley. Unfortunately the waiter serving the cheese displayed a complete lack of knowledge about the cheese which took away from the whole experience. When I asked him where the three different blue cheeses were from he said “I think they are from France”. However, this was the only service issue of the night and other than this the service was fairly diligent. After the cheese, a nice end to the meal was the fresh, juicy cherries that arrived in a bowl of ice after our coffees and petit fours.
Baked cod fillet
40/30 is worth eating at for the amazing setting alone. As it is, the food is quite good which is almost a surprise when a restaurant can rest on its laurels thanks to its location. There is nothing here to startle, but importantly, there is nothing really to complain about either. The food looks the part and is almost as impressive in presentation as the building. Still, when you leave it is bound to be the view that you remember, not what you ate.
Details: 30 St Mary Axe, Central London EC3A 8EP (Ph 020 7071 5009) Tube – Liverpool Street Damage: Pricey. Our bill came to £160 for the two of us