34 Westferry Circus E14 8RR
Tel: 020 8305 3089
Cost per person without wine: £55
YOU have to really want to go to Battery to make it inside. In the Phillipe Starck-designed space formerly occupied by the now-defunct restaurant Ubon, it’s at the top of a building within the cloistered Four Seasons complex in Canary Wharf, next to that hotel’s rather wonderful infinity pool. The entrance to the hotel (never mind the restaurant) is up some quiet stairs, off what must be Docklands’ most obscure, unwelcoming road (Westferry Circus). To access its grounds, and thus Battery, you must buzz at a metal gate located coyly off to the right of the hotel’s entrance. Someone from the restaurant, if that’s where you’re going, will answer and click you through – I couldn’t say what happens if you don’t have a reservation, as security seems to be a concern round these heavily gated parts.
Battery is named after the park in New York, for no obvious reason, and is quite lovely. In the main, this is because its Thames views are utterly arresting, and the whole room is organised around them. What this means is that the restaurant is basically a minimalist box with windows for walls and a few metallic, animal-print chairs for pre-dinner drinks.
Service is friendly and efficient, presided over by older European men. After a couple of drinks, which included a too-sweet but swiftly despatched Moscow Mule (stick to wine here – our sickly after-dinner cocktails support this advice too), we went to our table. Usually I’m a greedy view grabber, but at Battery there is no downside to any seat. We ogled the boats twinkling in the darkness, and played “name the building” – from Docklands to the City – until the business of ordering food became pressing.
Chef Minesh Patel, who trained with Marco Pierre White and has experience in the Ramsay group, is clearly delighted to be lording it over a posh London restaurant (Battery is the latest from Inc Group which owns, among diverse others, the Coach and Horses in Greenwich and the Elbow Room chain). His menu is composed of flamboyant, somewhat showy modern European food, some of which is brilliant. Unusual ingredients and combinations are everywhere, from liquorice served with goat’s curd and beetroot, to veal belly with monkfish, apricot and harissa.
Dishes are labelled by primary ingredient, so there’s “sirloin of beef”, “lamb rump” and “mackerel” – which is a bit dated, but actually rather helpful if you know what you fancy. We tried a range of dishes off the tasting menu in part because of greed (remember what I said about the views?) and also because most of what’s on that menu resurfaces in larger portions on the a la carte and it was therefore a good way to test the power of this particular Battery.
“Crab” – with crème fraiche and avocado – was a squeaky clean dollop of these ingredients, while salt and pepper squid came deep-fried with – stop press – squid ink aioli (it tasted mainly of mayonnaise, and very little of ink, disappointingly). Artichokes in truffle dressing were fine, the piquancy of the vegetable an odd but pleasant bedfellow with the mushroomy richness of the very almost out-of-season truffle. Ravioli of pig’s cheek with celeriac, passion fruit and sweet sage had a syrupy richness, and was an impressive combination of flavours that reaped the rewards of Patel’s adventurous spirit in the kitchen.
For mains we went for corn-fed duck and it was the most impressive plate of fowl that either of us had encountered in years: great (and numerous) slabs of juicy, maroon meat with the heft and tenderness of fillet mignon and a warm flavour that was somewhere between excessive duckiness and hardcore steakiness, with a nice caramelized skin and a blob of brilliantly soft duck liver on top. I had halibut with lingoustine and a rich seafood broth – the fish was as cottony and delicate as can be.
For puddings, we sailed past warm prune and amaretto frangipani, opting for the adventurous, decidedly 80s-style Oriental-inspired pannacotta. To put it gently, it was not a success: jello-ish and sickly, lacking in any definable flavour. Patel’s puddings go off the deep end a bit (I’ll wager peanut butter parfait ‘Elvis’ with bananas and strawberry jellies would have been a bit hard to cope with after dinner), as do his cocktails. Certainly the Twilight martini, with Cognac, espresso and Baileys didn’t aid digestion. But the cocktails know their place – they’re right at the back of the wine list. Speaking of wine, the list is good for all budgets. At the moment the selection by the glass is pitiful but we had a brilliant bottle of Barbaresco 2005, plucked from a wealth of attractive Spaniards and Italians.
The atmosphere is friendly, the food interesting if patchy and the views completely brilliant. If you can find it, Battery is well worth a trip.