I booked this evening dinner at the Tower restaurant based on what I saw on its website. The ambience was fine and it set a tone that echoed the website illustrations.
As with so many relatively expensive restaurants, it confused pretentious with quality.
We arrived about 10 minutes early for our dinner and were invited to wait in the adjacent bar, where we ordered a cocktail. This took 8 minutes to materialize, because they had to locate one of their special's ingredients. It transpired that the Valentine's £39.95 five course meal package included an aperitif. We were not offered this when we were invited to wait in the bar by the dining room staff. Two minutes after our specials arrived we were ushered to our table. The dining room maître d’ simply pointed at the door to the dining room, but didn't offer to open it for my wife. Cocktails in hand, we were immediately presented with the aperitif, another cocktail. Both the bar cocktails and the rather sickly dining room effort had been spilled in transit and the outside of all the glasses were sticky. This meant we had to leave the table to wash our hands. The Mens' hand dryer didn't work.
The wall light above my wife had a dozen dead insects reclining in its glass bowl.
We ordered a jug of water, which was simply plopped on the table; we poured it ourselves.
I ordered the Blade of Beef Wellington. No effort was made by the waiter to ascertain whether I preferred my meat rare or well done. I like it rare. The beef arrived so well done it was like braised steak and fell apart in flakes. It had a paper thin pastry crust and the pate was in a separate cup. In essence, it was an overcooked fillet. My wife's cod dish was excellent. The vegetables were tasty and properly cooked.
When the wine that I had ordered arrived I was correctly offered a taste. The waiter then inquired whether my wife would also like a taste?! People don't taste wine to see if they 'like' it; the person who orders it tastes it to ensure it is not corked. Nothing more.
A waiter appeared and asked if we'd like a bread roll. I accepted and my wife declined. The waiter hesitated and then decided to give her a bread roll anyway.
The vegetables were served on a platter that we had to share. As we helped ourselves a piece of cabbage fell onto the tablecloth. When the main course was cleared away, the waitress looked at the offending leaf, but elected to leave it there, where it remained in the middle of the table for the rest of the evening.
The dessert was a shared platter of small options set in the middle of the table on a slate. No plates were provided for either of us. An attempt had been made to make it look artistic, but it was, frankly, a bit of a mess. The waitress was about to walk away after delivering it to the table when my wife had to enquire, what each of them was. The waitress had little idea; for example, ‘That’s a white chocolate cone with something in it’, and ‘I don’t know what that is’. Not very promising. Part of it was ice cream, which quickly melted and flowed off the flat slate onto the tablecloth.
When settling up, I was asked directly by the waiter how much of a tip I wanted to add to my credit card payment. So as not to ruin an otherwise enjoyable evening, I gave a 12% tip. Much more than the staff deserved.
Apart from my overcooked main course, what really let the Tower down was the service. They were all small things, but, if you're paying in excess of a £100 for a meal for 2 (including a bottle of wine) in what clearly considers its self to be a quality, stylish restaurant in a good part of town, these things matter and detract from the overall impression. Pretentious, rather than good. We are unlikely to return.
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