The City’s restaurant scene has changed enormously even in the last few years.
There’s more life in the Square Mile at weekends and more choice for City lunches than ever before. These are exciting times. A good way to get a sense of this is to embark, as I did yesterday, on a lunch safari.
My host was the great Soren Jessen, who is well-known in the City as the man behind 1 Lombard Street. Jessen now has three restaurants, and at his suggestion we decided to have a single course at each of his three ventures, making up a rather magnificent lunch.
Danish-born Jessen was a high-flyer at Goldman and UBS before swapping the trading floor for restaurants, opening 1 Lombard St in 1998. He’s recently expanded his empire to include Borealis in Borough and Ekte in the new Bloomberg Arcade, both of which sing to the tune of his Nordic roots with modern and sophisticated Scandi menus. If you thought that means all pickled herrings and meatballs, think again.
We met at Borealis, a stone’s throw from London Bridge, for a Danish take on the Bloody Mary and a starter of smorrebrod – delicious and beautifully presented toppings on a slice of rye bread. Rare roast beef with celeriac and capers, fried plaice with cress and lemon, and sliced potato with smoked mayonnaise and dried onion. With a menu like this, it’s easy to see why Sorren’s tribe so often top the world’s happiness rankings.
We were joined by Hugo Campbell-Davys, founder of lifestyle app Urbanologie and all-round bon vivant, and the tremendously convivial Bill Knott, known to readers of London’s other business paper as the Gannet. Our outing was planned following a chance encounter at a drinks party a few weeks ago, and our motivations were purely hedonistic.
After Borealis (achingly cool) we dashed north to Ekte (meaning ‘genuine’ in Norwegian) for a main course of crab with confit egg yolk, rich earthy mushrooms on toast and smoked duck with potato (plus some punchy Danish schnapps) before settling in just over the road at 1 Lombard Street, where it all began for Jessen and where our safari ended with some stunning deserts and fine Chablis.
Knott was in charge of the drinks at this stage and he was determined to see what treats could be found on Lombard’s impressive list. We talked about the evolving nature of the Square Mile’s offering, gossiped about chefs and restaurateurs, shared tales of our summer hols (or, in my case, honeymoon) and as I left to return to the office I had a feeling things were just getting going.
Sorren’s restaurants are fantastic: from his new Nordic ventures to the institution on Lombard St (which hosted the judging breakfast that was held earlier this week for the upcoming City A.M. Awards), the full range of City diners can be found within his walls. If a three-restaurant lunch sounds a bit much, you could settle on just one – and enjoy.
Coming down to earth
‘The elites’ get a bad press these days, and I have to say they don’t help themselves. Former US Treasury Secretary Larry Summers this week published an article reflecting on a road trip he took with his wife through the parts of America he normally flies over. With apparently genuine amazement he wrote in the FT: “there were moments when we were 250 miles from any place where I could have bought an iPhone charger.” It would have been more useful if Summers took this trip while in office, rather than waiting until he retired to the comfort of academia.
Never mind the Banksys
Banksy’s ‘Girl with Balloon’ is dead, long live Banksy’s ‘Love is in the Bin’ – the new name for a partially-destroyed Banksy original that began to shred itself after being sold for £1m at auction earlier this week. You could forgive the buyer a minor heart attack, but luckily auction house Sotheby’s has declared that “Banksy didn’t destroy an artwork... he created one... the first artwork in history to have been created live during an auction.” Frankly, the whole thing stinks.