The Drift at Heron Tower
31 October 2011
Everything about Heron Tower is big. From its lofty status as the tallest building in London - at least for the moment - to the giant fish tank flanking an entire wall of its lobby.
Best for: treating trendy clients with BIG appetites.
Worst for: a “serious meeting” dinner, or indeed any dinner where difficulties making yourself heard above the music might matter.
Nearest tube: Liverpool Street
Unsurprising then, that The Drift bar and restaurant, with its triple-height ceiling and shelves so tall you’d need a pair of stilts to fetch anything from them, is entirely in keeping with the dimensions of the tower which accommodates it.
What The Drift isn’t: haute cuisine, cosy, or quiet for anyone other than the hard of hearing. What it is: sassy, slick and serviced by trendy twenty-somethings sashaying blithely between kitchen and table to the cacophonic beat of up-tempo mood music pulsing from Bose speakers haphazardly slung from the ceiling. Ergo, anathema to pipe-smoking old boys clad in three-piece suits, but utterly magnetic to sharp young associates sporting thin ties and winkle-pickers. Some highly-paid interior designer has clearly gone to town on a retro/modernist mix of wood, glass, metalwork and patterned textiles, and the result is undeniably eye-catching.
The menu is extensive, portions capable of sating the heartiest of eaters, and range of choice sufficiently flexible to cater for both the traditional three-course meal and the more casual spread of smaller sharing dishes or platters. Inventive menu titles such as “prawn lollipops” and “cowboy fries” spark interest. The seam-bursting Salads & Sandwiches section will delight the more casual diner, while the mains give the lowliest of traditional pub grub (the classic apostrophes: fish ‘n chips, sausage ‘n mash and shepherd’s pie) the five-star treatment. Prices are very reasonable at an average of £6 for starters and £9 for mains, which makes The Drift a great choice for recession-ravaged client entertainment budgets.
Many modern restaurants have an imaginative gimmick designed to set them apart from the road-more-travelled types. At The Drift, all meals arrive at table served on wooden boards, which distances it from lesser rivals who might, god forbid, lag behind with the latter-day ceramic plate. However, an unfortunate side effect of gimmicks applied with ubiquitous zeal is the occasional trespass into the realm of ’Fashion Over Function’. Case in point: my eating companion struggles valiantly to extricate his rather solid duck confit from a mini jam jar perched precariously on, you’ve guessed it, a wooden board, but his strenuous shoveling results in flying missiles at random intervals. Not especially suitable, then, for any dinner where first impressions count!
The dessert menu should come with a health warning. “Pudding shots” of crème brûlée, knickerbocker glory andchocolate brownie with vanilla ice-cream would be just about manageable if they were, in fact, served in shot-sized portions. Arriving as they do in cocktail glasses, after a sizeable starter and main course I might as well have been asked to climb Mount Everest after scaling K2. Faced with half-eaten desserts on both sides of the table, our waiter’s remark that the dessert is “really meant for sharing” (despite no such indication on the menu) finds an appropriate analogy in Shutting The Gate After the Horse has Bolted.
To sum up: contrary to its namesake, The Drift is a high-energy experience where the buzzy atmosphere of the bar downstairs creeps up those triple-height glass walls and spills over into the restaurant above. Come here for a good feed and a good time on a late weekday evening and order the Pinot Gris – I’m told it’s the latest thing in wine.
Anneka Bain is an associate at a City firm.