A few weeks ago Dave and I celebrated our one year wedding anniversary. Dave sure knows me well because for his present he took me out for dinner to the OXO Tower. And if you’ve been reading this blog then you’ll know that I love food.
But he didn’t tell me that he was taking me to the OXO Tower – it was a surprise. He just put on the Savile Row suit he wore on our wedding day and I put on a pretty dress. First we walked to the Millennium Bridge and re-visited the spot where he proposed two and a half years ago. On our two year anniversary of being together he got down on bended knee in the middle of that bridge and since that day the place has had a special meaning for us.
On our wedding anniversary, when we reached that special spot on the bridge we had a good view of the OXO Tower and that’s when he asked whether I could guess where we were going for dinner.
The OXO Tower was built towards the end of the 19th century as a power station for the post office. But in 1928 and 1929 it was re-built in an Art Deco design after being bought by the Liebig Extract of Meat Company, which made OXO beef stock cubes.
The company wanted to put illuminated advertising signs on the building but because no advertising is allowed on the banks of the River Thames, their application was denied. So they designed the OXO Tower with four sets of three vertically-aligned windows which spelt out the word ‘OXO’.
Liebeg was taken to court for their troubles but successfully won the case and the OXO Tower still remains today. (We learn this neat little fact on our recent London RIB Voyages tour.)
In the 1990s the OXO Tower was refurbished and the adjacent buildings were transformed into housing, a restaurant, shops and exhibition space.
The view from the OXO Tower’s restaurant is beautiful – day and night. From my seat I could see St Paul’s Cathedral right next to the Millennium Bridge where Dave proposed.
But the view comes with a price and the OXO Tower restaurant is somewhat on the expensive side. Main dishes cost around £30 and our entire meal for two was £100 a head. But this included two cocktails, a bottle of wine to share, two courses and a dessert shared between two – so it’s certainly not the most expensive restaurant in London, even if it’s still on the upper price end.
Our charming French waiter took our drinks order and Dave spied a bottle of wine from home that has a special meaning for us. It was Cape Mentelle wine. The wine is from Western Australia and Dave’s grandfather had many bottles of it in his cellar.
The very first time Dave came round for dinner to meet my parents he brought a bottle of this precious wine from 1995. My dad – ever a difficult man to please and even more so if the man trying to please him is his daughter’s boyfriend – told Dave even before he’d opened the wine that it’d probably be corked.
My dad can be intimidating. Which is kind of ironic when you consider he only weighs 70kg and he’s just slightly taller than I am. I’m not sure if it was all those years in the army, or the fact that he’s fought in a war, or maybe it’s his moustache. I don’t know. But I’ve been told he can be intimidating when he meets you for the first time.
‘I doubt it’ll still be good,’ my dad told Dave his opinion of the wine, sighing.
‘Don’t be ridiculous, I’m sure it’ll be lovely!’ refuted my mum, trying to put a patch over my dad’s rudeness.
The wine was poured and my Dad drew the glass to his nose and breathed in deeply. I could feel Dave tense beside me.
‘It tastes a bit…’ Dad trailed off.
‘Yes?’ Dave asked, hanging onto to Dad’s every word.
‘Dead. Yes, it tastes a bit dead.’
And that was what happened the first time Dave came to eat at our house. Thankfully he loved me enough to hang around because that hard treatment would surely scare off a weaker man.
Anyway, we had a giggle as we sipped on the Cape Mentelle wine on our first wedding anniversary and thought back on this memory. The OXO Tower restaurant’s sommelier came over to us and said we chose well.
‘Ze Cape Mentelle is a brilliant wine and it is so very cheap!’ he told us in his charming French accent. ‘And zere was only one bottle left in ze cellar!’
Dave and I smiled to ourselves.
I went for the rabbit for entree and the fish stew for main course. Unfortunately I had a cold and so my taste buds had been dulled somewhat, which was irritating because I felt I couldn’t fully enjoy the meal. Dave chose scallops as his entree and the delicious pork belly as his main. I think his choices were better than mine because whereas I couldn’t taste my food so well, his food seemed full of flavour, even with my sniffly nose.
We finished off the meal with a cheese platter. The waiter wheeled over the cheese board and after an explanation of each cheese and a sampling, we could choose five to share. This was my favourite part of the meal because the fanfare when serving up the cheese was great. It was a true foodie experience.
The couple next to us shared a whole duck and they carved this at the table too, so if you’re up for this kind of foodie experience you should try it.
But rather than the food, the most enjoyable part about dining at the OXO Tower restaurant were the little touches. The stunning view, the way the waiter pulled out my chair – everything from the hello to the goodbye was done with absolute politeness. It made our anniversary feel all the more special. And that’s what the OXO Tower restaurant is for – with the high prices dining there is probably best saved for special occasions.
What you need to know:
Cost – Our meal, including drinks, cost just under £200 in total, including service.
When to go – We went in the evening and were lucky to have a clear night to make the most of the view. The lights look spectacular at night, although I’m sure the view is just as lovely during the day.
How to get there – The OXO Tower is close to Waterloo and Southwark stations. There’s not a lot of parking around the restaurant so it’s probably best to get the train.