Love, it’s a funny old thing, it’s inspired everything from Shakespeare’s sonnets to Adele’s heart-breaking ballads. Southbank’s Festival of Love attempts to make sense of this ever-slippery, always-confusing emotion with a series of events including modern dance, theatre and perhaps, best of all, food and booze at Skylon, the restaurant in the Southbank Centre.
Yes London can be grey and full of miserable commuters, but there’s something about the Southbank that reignites our passion for the capital - strolling is acceptable and everyone’s so darn happy. Skylon, right by the Thames, is in a prime position for a bit of London-loving. The action revolves around the beautiful circular bar in the centre of the room. Huge arches twisted with ivy-green foliage and orange roses arc over it and contrast well with the simple, fresh, white colour scheme of the rest of the restaurant.
With floor-to-ceiling windows that look over the river and several rows of tables, the room is huge. Do everything you can to get a window table, push one of your party into the river if necessary - watching the sunset over the north side of the city is worth it.
Food & Drink
Head Chef Tom Cook’s Festival of Love menu is five courses of deliciousness, made using aphrodisiac ingredients; if you’re not in love with your company, at least you’ll be in love with the food.
The evening kicks off with my favourite aphrodisiac - alcohol - in the form of a Southbank Love cocktail. Created specially for the festival, it contains vodka, chilli, vanilla and Visciolata del cardinale, and from the first fruity, sherry-like sip which transformed into a spicy, refreshing chilli aftertaste, my taste buds were tingling.
Usually I get a bottle of house plonk and hope the hangover doesn’t leave me temporarily blinded the next day, but Skylon’s wine-pairing is worth the extra buck. Having wines that matched the dishes and a sommelier on hand to explain everything, brought out flavours in the food that I didn’t even know existed.
Starting light and getting heavy, the menu is like the food version of your dream relationship (Alexander Skarsgård just call me already). From the light and zingy sea bream carpaccio to the rich and smoky foie gras contrasted with roasted figs and a sweet and juicy 2013 Riesling Kabinett, each of the five dishes were completely unique in flavour.
The roasted duck breast with pomegranate seeds and berry coulis was cooked medium rare and paired with wine so indulgent it almost tasted chocolatey - does it get better than this? Yes, yes it does, in the form of actual chocolate, with a dark chocolate and cherry mousse that was so rich and velvety I was moments away from whispering ‘je t’aime’.
Skylon is fancy, ‘monsieur’ and ‘mademoiselle’ fancy, but without being pretentious. Impeccably smart staff are friendly and more than happy to give you extra details or to recommend what to finish your meal with (espresso martinis by the way).
Despite the suits and older clientele, there is also a romantic and relaxed vibe; eating there isn’t simply about the food but about the experience as a whole. Our food and wine were served over the course of three hours, meaning we could savour each dish and glass of wine while people watching in one of the best spots in the city.
Festival of love? Hell yeah, I’m in love with Skylon’s tasting menu. Perhaps it was the view of the sun sinking behind the London skyline casting us in an orange glow; or perhaps the little unexpected extras such as truffles on a mini London eye, heck, perhaps it was the five glasses of wine, all I know is that I’m ready to say those four little letters.
Skylon's Festival of Love menu with wine pairing costs £108 per person and is available until 31st of August.