Sunday, 18 July 2010

Paramount, Soho - Modern food with panoramic views of London

There's always that fear that the better the view, the worse the food. Would the fear be founded at Paramount?

Paramount has 360 degree views of London, from the 32nd floor of the Centre Point tower. You can see the bridges line up along the Thames, past the London Eye, the Gherkin and unwary Londoners sunbaking on their rooftops. It's fair to say it has a good view.

The food itself has to be put in context. Paramount was a private members club, which has recently been opened to the public. The dining room is slick and modern, designed by Tom Dixon (I don't know much - ok, anything - about him, but judging from his website, he seems to like these suction cap style things on the ceiling):

There's a sleek bar area, where you can just go for a drink, which leads on to the restaurant - both are frequented mostly by 30-something men in suits drinking from big wine glasses and 30-something women dressed up in the latest Karen Millen gear, preferably with a bit of sparkle. It still feels like it's mostly filled with its members at the moment. It's smart, even if it does feel just a teensy bit soulless. This feels more like a place run by a faceless "management" than somewhere the heart and soul of its creators is in every corner and on every plate - but the crowd are not here nuzzling up to their cocktails for that. They're here for the view and the scene, with a bit of fancy pants food on the side.

I joined my dining companions in the private Red Room, and watched the sky line change as the sun set and the city lights took over for the night shift. Not a bad way to spend an evening.

Head chef Colin Layfield has created a menu which reads like one temptation after another. It's seriously hard to choose based on the print alone. But then everything is executed with ultra modern presentation, which is either your thing or it's an irritation - black slates, rectangular plates, cylindrical shaped food etc. The style certainly matches the architecture.

After a gorgeous amuse bouche (cappuccino of asparagus veloute), my double baked Roquefort souffle (£9.50) had a rich and lovely flavour, if ever so slightly too dry.

My wild sea bass with potato gnocchi, samphire and caviar cream (£23.50) was a luxurious combination which I mostly loved - the fish and firm little gnocchi were cooked perfectly but the fish was overseasoned, particularly given not much was needed in combination with the salty caviar.

For dessert, my walnut tart (£9.50) was "quite nice" and came with a lovely Pink Lady apple strudel, sweet ginger custard and a really powerful cider sorbet (which I didn't like).

It's fussily presented, ambitious food and it's generally pretty good, but doesn't always hit the mark. However, you won't be able to complain that you make one just like it at home.

Service was lovely and unpretentious (although I was attending an event for my meal and found the front of house area near the bar slightly more cool and aloof when I visited anonymously with friends the following week).

Paramount is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner - or just for drinks at the bar to lap up the spectacular view. There's a decent looking bar food menu, and wine by the glass starts at £6.25 while cocktails are a whopping £11. There's also a narrow bar (more like a carpeted corridor really) wrapped around edges of the 33rd floor which will be an oyster and champagne bar ... again with the view.

Although Paramount is apparently open to the public, when I rang to put my name on the list for our drinks in the bar this week, the phone was answered by a rather toffy, unwelcoming man who, when he could not find my name in their system (I don't always get around as "Greedy Diva"), explained that only those who have been before with a member or have some kind of link in can get in for drinks. What the..? Just call first and maybe you'll work it out.

Paramount, Centre Point, 103 New Oxford St, Soho, WC1A 1DD (Tel: 020 7420 2900)

I dined in the Red Room as a guest of Paramount with other food bloggers. 

For other places to eat with a great bird's eye view over London, see my earlier review of Galvin at Windows here.

Paramount on Urbanspoon


  1. I'll never forget the first night of my first visit to Sydney, when my recently emigrated best friend took me for dinner at the revolving restaurant atop the AMP Tower. He had either forgotten my fear of heights, or felt that it would not apply in a different hemisphere, but either way I munched through one of the best steaks I'd ever tasted convinced that at any minute the glass would fall from the sloping windows and I would plunge to my death.

    I mention this by way of illustrating that, even with the lure of the amazing view, the food and indeed whole experience at Paramount would have to be pretty bloody flawless to even get me in the lift. 'Generally pretty good' just won't cut it for me - and nor will the appalling attitude of whoever took your call! You're either open to the public or you're not chaps - make your mind up!

    A great pleasure to read though, as ever.

  2. It seems to be the old good view = not so good food conundrum. I had a similar experience at The Gherkin recently

  3. Great write up Carly.

    I thought the bar itself was superb, but only for the views. I found the food itself to be OK, I mean it was pretty flash to look at and tasted fine - but my impression is of a restaurant 'trying too hard', it just lacked soul.

    As for the surly front of house, I arrived to the same event as you, late (and a bit tipsy) you guys were already upstairs, and they were a little off with me as well... until they realised I was with the group of food bloggers.

  4. Hugh - Oh dear, I think it might be best if you kept your feet on firm ground. If the sky high view is not your thing, the main draw card is lost for you on this one.

    Gourmet Chick - Yes, the Gherkin experience sounds similar. Galvin at Windows has an amazing food, and Michelin star food that comes with a good set price lunch deal.

    Dan - I think we have a similar view on this one! Was lovely to see you.

  5. All in all, it sounds like rather a failure; waitstaff obviously being nice to you for who you are, and food that wasn't very good. That souffle looks pretty terrible...

  6. Oh gosh, lucky escape is what comes to mind. Location looks amazing though. I didn't go to Paramount because of the Gennaro Contaldo cookery class by Wild Card.

    Luiz @ The London Foodie

  7. It is interesting that they were a members' bar, couldn't hack it or succeed at that game and are now basically a free for all but have the same wierd attitude. Strange.

    I remember going when it opened and thought I'ld come again but membership - why?

    The food seems to have ramped up (even with the slight misses though) a hell of a lot.

  8. Luiz - It was a really fun night and food pretty good/views great - but probably not a vibe that everyone will love.

    Tom - The attitude on the phone was a real turn off, which is a shame because lose the snottiness and it's a fun place for certain occassions.


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