Andy Mossack eats in the rarefied atmosphere of Searcys at the Gherkin, an iconic venue in the heart of the City of London.
A rainy Saturday night is perhaps the perfect scenario for Halloween particularly when you are 40 floors above ground level. High enough to spot any broomsticks flying around. However, the particular spellbook I was picking from was the dinner menu. Perhaps not as spectacular as a witch’s brew, but inordinately more satisfying.
At least that was the plan.
The Gherkin is without a doubt an extraordinary structure. It’s a remarkable location to house a restaurant, and quite fitting for a culinary company with such an illustrious heritage. It was 1847 when founder John Searcy opened his own business following years of baking for nobility, was later granted a Royal Warrant, and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Gherkin is a design adventure, and the simple act of getting up to the top is an adventure. Airport-like security in the cavernous lobby then directions: “take the middle elevator to floor 34 please Mr. Mossack.” We were silently whisked skywards, met by a host, and checked in with more directions: “please take the opposite elevator to floor 39 Mr. Mossack.” Another silent ascent opened out to a staircase inviting us up to floor 40. However, I did note there was access for anyone unable to climb the stairs.
Reaching our final goal was an almost uplifting experience, but perhaps that was simply the lack of oxygen.
The setting is quite wonderful though. The curved glass ceiling providing a sensational 360-degree view of the City and, for the benefit of Halloween, plenty of pumpkins and purple lighting.
Searcys menu is all-day set dining; two or three courses with a choice of five dishes per course. There’s an extensive wine and cocktail list including a partnership with Lanson champagnes and No.3 gin who offer an eclectic menu of gin cocktails from a classic gin and tonic to sweet scratch using No.3, Zwack (Hungarian liqueur), plum and paprika shrub, honey and butter (£16).
Sadly, the rain obscured much of the view from our outward-facing table but left us undistracted to focus on a menu which celebrated London’s iconic markets such as Billingsgate and Borough market.
We could have picked any of the five starters that included a chicken and ham hock terrine, pickled woodland mushrooms and cured bresaola. But I ended up plumping for gravid lax with whipped dill cream cheese, pickled radish and rye bread. It was a refreshing way to kick off a meal, the giant radish slices embracing mounds of cream cheese dotted around the cured salmon. Delightful.
My dining partner adores pumpkin and, perhaps still in the Halloween moment, chose a knockout pumpkin velouté with a generous slice of apple and almond-topped caraway toast lying across the bowl.
Our triumphant starters were made all the more enjoyable by an excellent Te Whare Ra Marlborough Pinot Noir.
Sometimes I feel with set menus the main courses can be something of a compromise. You might have to choose something you ordinarily wouldn’t order given a free choice. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case here. The options included chicken fillet with squash terrine, aubergine and mozzarella tortellini and confit duck with chorizo lentils. However, the braised hunk of Hereford beef was a bull’s eye for me. It came topped with caramelised shallots with some crispy plant leaves topping a generous mound of creamed parsnip.
Feeling very confident after her triumphant soup, my dining partner went straight for the miso-infused cod loin with roasted cauliflower (another of her favourites) with verjuice and grapes. The cod was outstanding. Tender, generous, sweet and sour. Another hit.
With just the right amount of time passing between courses, our puddings materialised. As always happens with desserts I’m torn between avoiding anything too sweet and indulgent. “What is your least sweet dish?” I asked our masked and gloved server (COVID careful, not a Halloween character). “Passionfruit delice” she answered immediately, “I love it.” Good enough for me then. It came with baked chocolate and mint and berries. It was, I have to say, exactly as requested. The mousse was creamy and passionfruit fruity with just a hint of sweet. A beautiful way to end a meal. My partner could have had one of her favourite indulgences; sticky ginger and date sponge, or chocolate salted caramel tart with mascarpone but declined the temptation for baked Bramley apple with granola crumble and almond ice cream. It was, dare I say it, a total triumph.
Searcys at The Gherkin ticked every box for me. An excellent menu within a truly iconic venue in one of the greatest cities in the world.
As we got up to repeat our arrival adventure in reverse, I swear I glimpsed a figure on a broomstick flying across the City skyline. Perhaps there really was a culinary book of spells at work here. Then again, it could be just the rarefied air. Either way, I loved it.
Tell me more about Searcys at The Gherkin
Searcys at The Gherkin, 30 St Mary Axe, London EC3A 8BF
T: 0330 107 0816
3-course set menu £35 or 2-course set menu £28
Monday-Friday 13:00 – 20:00 (last reservation 18:30)
Saturday: 14:00 20:00 (last reservation 18:30) Sunday: 13:00 – 18:00 (last reservation 15:00)
Although Christmas might be a bit different this year, it is not cancelled! Searcys are hoping that you will enjoy a gift of Searcys hospitality. Choose from 30+ gift vouchers from an afternoon tea to a private party in one of London’s stunning venues, and new for 2020 – Searcys own Cuvee delivered to your door. Browse Searcys gifting collection on www.searcys.co.uk.