Occupying pride of place at the top of the inescapably tall Centre Point, the Paramount bar and restaurant has finally decided to open its doors to Joe Public. Previously members-only, Stephen Fry, Graham Norton and friends will now have to snuggle up next to you, dear reader, should they care for an aperitivo at altitude.
Entering the rather quiet and classy ground floor foyer of Centre Point, I was directed to the express lift bound for the very top, being reassured by the porter, ‘You need not press anything; I’ve called it for you’. Right, easy to understand already why it had member appeal. Upon entering the bar area at floor 32, I would have found it difficult even noticing Jennifer Aniston sitting there as instantly your eyes are drawn to the rather magnificent, expansive views of London presented through the windows. The vista becomes even more impressive in the 33rd floor viewing gallery – a narrow, seat-laden 360 degree windowed passageway spanning the full building circumference.
Alas, I was here to eat so I headed back down to floor 32 with my fellow diners to sample the menu of head chef Colin Layfield and his team. We were treated to the private Red Room dining area – a secluded 24-capacity hideaway with decor that exuded class, flanked with the trademark view. However, regular diners can still enjoy the view from the more modest communal dining area.
We all chose from the à la carte menu, and each dish that arrived was presented to a very high standard, arranged beautifully on a variety of crockery, slate slabs and quirky individual vessels. To start, I sampled my neighbour’s Roquefort soufflé, which was tasty indeed but my smoked haddock and lentil chowder was the real star: rich and truly delicious.
For my main course I picked the five-spiced monkfish with saffron risotto and crab spring rolls. This was delightful: cooked to perfection and presented very well. My second choice – the trio of pork with ginger sauce – looked and smelled great across the table but unfortunately I was not granted any due to rapid ingestion by its owner.
The dessert was the real talking point though, with my strawberry Bavarois being quite the envy of the table. Actually undersold by the menu, it was a very indulgent, impressive looking array of fruit, white chocolate and custard flavours. Intriguingly, it had an apparent geographical arrangement that looked suspiciously like the very London we could see outside. I’m assuming this was Colin’s intention, what with the meandering central Thames-like (and appropriately off-colour) gelatinous snake. If not, it was a fun and happy accident indeed.
A few timing missteps in the otherwise very professional service were only a small quibble in an otherwise wonderful experience. Paramount is as much a place to be as a place to eat. However, to dine there is well worth it, and with prices in the region of £40-£60 for three courses and a drink, you surely must treat yourself, even if it’s just for the sake of that view.
101-103 New Oxford Street
Tel: 020 7420 2900