'A good dinner and feasting reconciles everybody'. It’s the opening statement on new Tower Hill restaurant The Lampery’s website and the wise words of everyone’s favourite Fire of London diarist, Samuel Pepys. It turns out that his digs were on Seething Lane, just west of Tower Hill and the same street as neighbour The Lampery – give or take about 300 years. Fortunately, things have improved quite a bit since then: forks were introduced in the 17th Century and you won’t find a hint of any 'rare chine of beef' or 'stewed carps' mentioned in Sam’s diary (phew). But I did want to find out what this modern restaurant with a historical slant had to offer.
Venue and Atmosphere
Despite its historical inclinations, there isn't a thatched roof in sight. Instead, on the ground floor of Apex City of London Hotel, you’ll find a glass-fronted restaurant with overhanging greenhouse-full of plants in the front window. Chic millennial-pink menus, grey marble tables and aquamarine velvet couches are a bold look for a business hotel, and gives the venue oodles of cool. It’d be equally suited to a relaxed informal dinner with friends as it would a business lunch. There’s also tonnes of space, and the music choice ranges from everything to Chic and Diana Ross to Fleetwood Mac. This may be one of the coolest business hotel restaurants in London.
Food and Drink
Much like the rest of it, house cocktails take inspiration from the area’s history, and my sweet Lampery Martini (£12) with lychee, lemon and vanilla sugar really hit the spot. Less of a success is the No5 in House (£11.50), which seemed like a refreshing summer drink, but was quite watery and the odd mix of passion fruit jelly with amber ale didn't really work. Others include “Not your Pepys’ Manhattan” and “1660!”, which I’m guessing definitely wasn’t the drink of choice in 1660 and includes basil-infused cachaça, lime and sugar syrup. If you're a bit stuck for choice, their great staff are on hand to help - as they did with us.
Moving on to food, we decide to share the British burrata (£9) and Baked Scottish scallops (£12) to start. It’s impossible not to be wowed when the scallops arrive under an intricate starch and squid ink canopy that looks like lace. Break the shell, and there are three plump scallops underneath with parsnip and autumn truffle cream. The burrata is lighter and would equally suit a summer menu, with cucumber and garden peas fresh and crunchy against the soft cheese.
The 24-day-aged sirloin (£26) finishes me off. It arrives pink and juicy, having been cooked over fire and I order it with triple-cooked chips (£4) and – don’t judge – Brussel sprouts (£5). These come with chestnuts and treacle-smoked bacon and completely unlike the boiled ones you get lumped next to your turkey for Christmas. The steak was dreamy and really was cooked to perfection. That's no mean feat.
For dessert we share a deliciously candied poached pear (£7) with cinnamon crumb, amaretto and salted caramel, which comes with a slick of cream. It’s the ideal winter warmer dessert, and back out into the January cold we go.
Call me snobbish, but so often, restaurants of hotels in the city that cater for midweek businessmen are so often bland, for fear of not catering to all tastes. Not so here. The Lampery proves that making bold choices really pays off – it’s not something people will forget in a hurry. Despite the historical theme not doing the restaurant’s cool-factor or contemporary interior and brilliant food justice, it’s a restaurant I’d go back to again and again. Friendly staff are more than happy to stay a while and chat and crack jokes, and, given the many tables-of-one I spot during my meal, it pays to have a little character.