Food 2015 – BT Tower (Celebrating the BT Tower’s 50th Birthday), London

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Oh boy have I been neglecting this… so without further ado, I’m back. From now on the motor racing stuff will all be on and everything else will be here.

I shall further preface this by saying that it is incredibly rare for me to win anything ever. I’ve had the odd Premium Bond win, the most recent (of three) being a stunning £25.00 but as for anything else, it’s not a frequent occurrence let’s say. The last prize I can recall is a set of teaspoons in a tombola in the early 1970s. So when Andrea emailed me to tell me that the BT Tower (née the Post Office Tower) restaurant was reopening in celebration of its 50th birthday, and that the tables would be allocated to the public by ballot, I stuck in an application for the first week and thought no more of it. Needless to say I wasn’t at all surprised not to hear back and duly applied for week 2 as well, expecting that much the same would happen.

I was therefore extremely taken aback when an email arrived stating: “Congratulations! You’ve won tickets to dine at the BT Tower restaurant. We’ve booked you and your guests a table for evening dinner in the famous revolving restaurant on 1st August 2015. Your table time is 19:00 and we recommend you arrive no later than 30 mins prior (we’re open from 6pm).”

A deal of shuffling around ensued during which I discovered that Andrea couldn’t make it as she’d be in Copenhagen on that day, but that she was going on the previous Sunday along with Gordon, Angela and Robert, Angela having also snagged a table. Given that 60,000 people applied, we did seem to have defied the odds somewhat. That left two other people who had expressed an interest, Janice and John. Alright so they would be coming in from Seattle that morning and thus stood a chance of being jet-lagged beyond reason, but they still enthusiastically agreed to join Lynne and I at the tower on the appointed date.

In an “oh sod it” moment we opted to stay up in town overnight, and I discovered the Regent’s Park Holiday Inn, around 250 metres from the venue and booked us in for the night. And so, on Saturday afternoon, we headed for London by train, arriving around 4:30, just in time to get changed and made up and to meet J & J in the bar for a pre-dinner drink of rosé prosecco.

From there we headed round to the venue, and arrived to find it all done up and shiny looking.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, VIEW OF THE TOP 002After we’d identified ourselves with photo ID, and had our bags scanned, we were greeted by our host for the evening, and allowed into the foyer, which was also looking very smart!

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY 002 BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY 005From there we were whisked rapidly up to the 33rd floor for pre-dinner champagne.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, CHAMPAGNE 008 BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, JANICE 007After a very unpleasant run of weather, we got lucky with that too, with clear-ish skies and sun shine. It could so easily have gone the other way, but as it was we went round all the windows exclaiming and gasping and taking as many photos as possible.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, VIEW FROM THE TOP 003 BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, VIEW FROM THE TOP 014 BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, VIEW FROM THE TOP 012Shortly afterwards we were invited to go to our table and thus we were taken up another level to the revolving 34th floor and seated ready to begin dinner. We started with a relatively substantial amuse bouches of caulifower velouté with a baked Parmesan foam and cheese straws. It was very rich and very cheesy with a interestingly bitter edge from the cauliflower and the Sauvignon Blanc we ordered to go with it matched it very well.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, CAULIFLOWER VELOUTE, BAKED PARMESAN FOAM, CHEESE STRAWS 012And all the while the restaurant kept right on revolving every 20 minutes, with the light constantly changing while we all tried to identify everything we could see from up there, resorting to Google maps and various apps to get the answers we needed.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, VIEW FROM THE TOP 017BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, VIEW FROM THE TOP 020BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, VIEW FROM THE TOP 022The next course to appear was charred lettuces, slow cooked hen’s egg, pine nut crumb, and truffle custard. The egg was nicely unctuous and the pine nut crumb in particular was delicious, with a lovely tang to it. The bitterness of the lettuce was a nice touch given how sweet the crumb was and all bound together with the smoothness of the custard.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, CHARRED LETTUCES, SLOW COOKED HEN'S EGG, PINE NUT CRUMB, TRUFFLE CUSTARD 014The next course brought a touch of the dramatics with waiters appearing with tea-pots containing tomato tea (produced by putting tomatoes in a muslin bag, hanging them up for 36 hours and letting the juice drip out then warming the resulting essence of tomato).

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, TOMATO TEA 020This was poured into cups to be drunk alongside the roasted hake with heirloom tomatoes, smoked tomato coulis, balsamic, capers, olive and basil.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, ROASTED HAKE, HEIRLOOM TOMATOES, SMOKED TOMATO COULIS, BALSAMIC, CAPERS, OLIVE, BASIL 019The capers were interestingly crunchy and tasted deeply of balsamic, and the fish was perfectly cooked, its flavour coming through despite how much tomato was involved. By now we’d done for a second bottle of white wine, and J and J were both still awake, which was surprising in many respects, but they claimed the wine was keeping them going!

We ordered a bottle of red, partly because we liked the name (Battle of Bosworth) and it was a Mclaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon, a lovely deep red and very tasty indeed, almost chewy in the first few gulps.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, WINE 011With it we were served spiced Gressingham duck breast, with crispy confit leg (the meat shredded and shaped into a small bread-crumbed meat ball) with tenderstem broccoli both pureeed and in its original form, hazelnut and plums. I particularly liked the crispy confit, and the plum together, but it was all enjoyable.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, SPICED GRESSINGHAM DUCK BREAST, CRISPY CONFIT LEG, TENDERSTEM BROCCOLI, HAZELNUT, PLUM 025By the time we’d finished the light was changing again as the Sun started to drop towards the horizon and we realised that we would soon be able to see the Moon, which was almost full. The light show was proving most entertaining out there…

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, VIEW FROM THE TOP 045 BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, VIEW FROM THE TOP 048To distract us from being distracted by the city vista we were next presented with a lovely smooth, rich lemon posset, served with an almost biscuit-like burnt meringue, bay leaf granita and a lemon sorbet. It managed the trick of being both rich and sticky and refreshing, and set us up nicely, along with a bottle of Sauternes, for the “proper” dessert.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, LEMON POSSET, BURNT MERINGUE, LEMON SORBET, BAY LEAF GRANITA 029 BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, LEMON POSSET, BURNT MERINGUE, LEMON SORBET, BAY LEAF GRANITA 028This was a dark chocolate custard which had a crunchy hazelnut coating, wrapped around a white chocolate ganache, with a disk of chocolate on the top decorated with a gold leaf logo of the tower. A hot chocolate sauce was poured over it and we all quietly descended into a chocolate induced semi-trance where all you could hear were gentle sighs and moans.

By this time it was getting quite dark and the lights were coming on all over the city and in the City as well, making for a magical show as the Moon came up as well.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, VIEW FROM THE TOP 054 BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, VIEW FROM THE TOP 055Another round of photography broke out and continued until a plate of cheese was brought out. Luckily the portions were very small as I don’t think any of us could have eaten much more at this point.

Luckily we weren’t expected to, and as the Moon reflected off the Shard, we lazily polished off the petit fours, drank peppermint tea to try and ease our digestive systems, and paid the bill for all that food and drink.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, PETIT FOURS 038 BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, MINT TEA 039It wasn’t exactly cheap but then again, it’s not an opportunity that comes along that often and we’re pretty unlikely all to be still around if they do it again another 50 years from now.

BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, MENU 010 BT TOWER 50TH BIRTHDAY, MENU 009It was getting on for 23:00 and so we collected our souvenirs, and slowly staggered back to the hotel, where J and J were able to intercept a London cab that had just dropped some hotel guests off, and Lynne and I lurched into the lifts and so to bed…


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