As bold and brash as its Canary Wharf setting, the ETM group caters to the big boys. Although One Canada Square suits the area, it lacks the individual charm and ambience found in the group's triumphant gastro pubs and other restaurant ventures.
On the ground floor of Canary Wharf's iconic One Canada Square tower, the latest bar and restaurant from the ETM group cleverly matches the lavish green marble interior of the building it’s housed within, meaning it actually blends in a little too easily in a corner spot. That's about as subtle as things get though, in a restaurant that is as bold as brass with an in your face Art Deco decor - the David Collins Studio were brought in to fix up the interior design so expect the stylish lamps, gold-lined furnishings and chequered table tops found in other London restaurants they've added their magic touch to. Splashes of colour come from a triptych of artwork on the wall in the Futurist style. A more muted dining area seems discreet up above but the stairs that lead the way as well as the bar downstairs are open air, with the marble corridors of the skyscraper lobby almost merging into the restaurant. This gives the venue an odd overall feeling akin to that of a hotel bar and restaurant.
Since the group are so well known for their character-filled gastro pubs, it seems a shame they couldn't innovate on new turf instead of sticking to the inherited corporate feel of the area. The drinks menu even arrives on an iPad, potentially a gimmick too far. But staff are fully hospitable and professional and make sure you're well looked after with an old-fashioned but well trusted style of service. They're unafraid to make menu suggestions that may sway you when you think you've already made up your mind. It's great to see such a confident approach, especially when much of the clientele are boisterous City bods.
Tom and Ed Martin know all about creating appealing menus for the right market, and they certainly hit the nail on the head here, with a food offering to suit the suited. You'll find hearty steak and chips or pie of the day for the City boys, a raw food bar for those trendy types watching their figure and seafood options for the refined palate. The head chef Jamie Dobbin hails from The Ivy, and so suits appointment in Canary Wharf's iconic tower.
From the raw bar, venison carpaccio (£9.50) comes with artichoke crisps and a gentle splash of truffle oil to finish. It's a surprisingly light dish, the slivers of game melting in the mouth and the vegetable crisps thin and crunchy. Sautéed razor clams with chorizo and sea purslane (£11) are tossed together in a light but intense dressing that makes it a really enjoyable dish - the buttery sauce is applied generously and the clams have just the required bite.
Main courses get a bit more adventurous, to varying effect. For example, a perfectly cooked and plump sea bass fillet (£22.50) is crispy-skinned, served on a delightful bed of blackened risotto made rich from plenty of garlic and squid ink. But a small amount of lemon purée is too sharp and citrusy on the side, that even in scarce amounts it overpowers the subtleties of the pan fried fish. And again, a classic dish is made experimental in the crab ravioli (£17.50), as one giant ravioli the size of a small plate arrives at the table. The pasta is cooked al dente and the crab filling is delicious and sweet but it's all drowned out by an overpowering orange-based shellfish sauce, served in too generous amounts.
Dessert is an accomplished flourish as the finale, though. Apple pie with custard or ice cream (£7.50) is classic British comfort food done well, with a thick-cut sweet pastry baked golden and lattice-topped, revealing warm and comforting apple goodness. The ice cream isn’t as creamy as hoped, but it’s carefully laced with vanilla seeds for an intense immediate flavour. Date and honey pudding with cornflake ice cream (£7.50) is a bit more inventive than the classic apple pie pud, and the sponge is a molasses-rich success. The cornflake ice cream could do with more of this sweet flavour, its malty taste more reminiscent of a soggy bowl of the popular breakfast cereal.
Cocktails keep to that Art Deco Americana theme, with a list of house classics including variations on the Martini and Julep. The Aviation tastes of Parma Violets, a fragrant, perfumey take on the drink that won't go well with food but is a worthy aperitif. Another aroma-heavy concoction is the Rhubard and Rose Martini, which is a sweet and sour drink akin to Turkish Delight. The wine list can be browsed through on the iPad provided, which does make it easy to select from reds, whites and roses, although it appears that staff have an impressive encyclopaedic knowledge of what will best suit your meal – a good, old-fashioned method that almost renders the modern iPad twist obsolete. A Picpoul de Pinet from the south of France proves to be a rather quaffable and surprisingly affordable selection at £25 a bottle.
The Last Word
While it may not meet the mark set by other ETM Group venues when it comes to atmosphere, One Canada Square is very suitably geared towards a Canary Wharf clientele with its bold décor and trusty service. And the menu is a comforting read, although a few experimental twists may need refining to achieve the kind of excellence the iconic location warrants.