There’s a toytown quality to the grid of freshly-scrubbed warehouses you find just over Tower Bridge. Nice, but somehow not entirely real – the area gives the appearance of being a model community for shiny young people, whose lives are on their way to somewhere else.
In the heart of the grid sits this two-level outfit, which, somehow, doesn’t seem quite real either. Why? Perhaps because it’s trying to be a sort of beast you don’t see very often – a quality (read pricey) Indian restaurant, attached to a serious bar operation. It’s an act that might be easier to pull off in the West End, but, even there, we can think of only one place – Mint Leaf – which answers to that description.
There are various ways they try to square the, er, circle here. One is by having friendly service which- having allowed diners to enjoy a drink downstairs – efficiently shepherds them to the restaurant above. Another is banning smoking throughout. Diners get to share some of the vibe of the bar operation, but no fug.
When you reach the elegant dining space, you find more friendly service – mainly Russian, mainly female. The food is from a serious chef, Bhuwan Batt, who worked in top Indian hotels, before coming to London diners’ attention at Tabla, near Canary Wharf. The style of the dishes, and their presentation, is perhaps a bit more ‘standard’ than one might expect – hotel experience coming through, perhaps – but there are some unusual dishes, All those we tried ‘worked’, and they all came in generous quantities. (Puddings, however, are weak.)
Can this formula work in this location? As we left, mid-evening, the bar was busier than the restaurant, and we had no feeling that the barflies were going to end up dining above, so we’d have our doubts. If we are wrong – and this is a case where we’d be pleased to be so – London’s dining-out scene is getting very mature indeed.