Centre Point, 101-103 New Oxford Street WC1A 1DD. Tel: 020 7420 2900, www.paramount.uk.net
Cost per person without wine: £45
IN the food’n’drinkosphere, the days of exclusivity seem to be numbered – just last week, private casino Les Ambassadeurs opened its restaurant, The Milroy, for the hoi polloi’s lunchtime pleasure. Bureau, another swanky bar/lounge that launched as a private members affair a couple years back in Kingly Court, has recently gone public too. And now, the cherry on the cake of private venues-turned public openings has just been placed, juicy and sweet, atop one of the highest buildings in London. Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to your new room with a view, Paramount, the former members club, at the top of Centrepoint.
Quite simply, it’s stunning. I’ve been up the Gherkin, to Windows at the top of the Hilton (see below for more on this) and to Gary Rhodes’ place, Rhodes 24 at Tower 42. But Paramount trumps them all and I’m not entirely sure why. Perhaps Soho provides a more interesting vantage point than the others; certainly the view of the BT tower shooting through the roofs of Fitzrovia, surrounded by streaks of pink cloud at sunset, is a sight for sore eyes, particularly when accompanied by a glass of back-lit champagne.
Or perhaps it’s the generosity of the windows that circle the spacious bar and act as a wall in the playfully designed, cosy restaurant. Down some stairs, if you were wanting to drink the view in from another level, there’s another bar that’s more like a windowed corridor – just an accessory to the view – than a normal room.
My advice is this: head up there with a date you really want to impress and take a pew at one of the sculptural sofas, or undulating wooden stools, in the bar. Order a bottle of wine, or something off the punchy cocktail list (the Rhubarb Rhapsody, with Bombay Sapphire, homemade rhubarb puree, fresh lemon juice and rhubarb liqueur topped with Billecart Salmon fizz caught my eye), a few nibbles and get stuck in. Go at sunset, and bar an unforseen disaster, that date should be a success.
Frankly, you could stay at a window-side booth nibbling plaice goujons and sipping bubbles quite happily all night, watching the sky go black and the lights come out. But it’s not a proper date if you don’t take her (or him) to dinner, really, and luckily, that part of the evening has every chance of impressing her (or him) too.
The dining room is small and sexy, with low lights – there are other tables in the main room that feel more airy, and closer to the all-important windows. Either way, the food ranges from the classic to the finicky; the likes of cauliflower pannacotta isn’t to everyone’s taste these days, especially when dishes such as “mince and potatoes” are turning up at hotspots like the Dean Street Townhouse.
Still, we had to try the “duo of salmon with cauliflower pannacotta and fresh pea shoots” – and it was a bit confusing, though all the elements were perfectly nice (the word “fresh” in relation to pea shoots seems a bit redundant, though). Foie gras and duck terrine with apple and fig pastilla was generous and a nice idea though the foie gras wasn’t fine and buttery enough – it tasted a bit crude and liver-like.
Mains are all very tempting indeed – however there is a sense the chef is trying a bit hard, cramming every cool ingredient he knows of into everything. But I quite like that, so plumped for the beef fillet with braised oxtail, bone marrow crust, wild mushroom and red wine jus. The result was a very tender, red sphere of meat with the marrow creating a smokey, salty crust that was richly rounded out by the jus, everything adding up to a party in my mouth, as it should. Sautéed spring lamb and young vegetables with basil and tomato was on the simpler end of the spectrum, and was a generous rack: big, red and flavoursome. For those that want to impress their dates with flourishes, there’s the wild sea bass with potato gnocchi, samphire and caviar cream or the goat cheese and red onion roll with celeriac fondant, pea purée and saffron artichokes.
It’s noisy, look-at-me food – but then, the view is like that too. You don’t go to Paramount to be shy and stare at beige walls and eat pared-down food. So I say, go all out and embrace the purees, the creams and the daring combinations. They create a skyline on the plate that’s almost a match for the one outside.