Paramount: A new pin on London’s foodie hotspots map
If you are a Londoner, how many times have you stopped and stared at the 60s skyscraper Centre Point above Tottenham Court Road station? Child of a brutalist era that filled the city with unattractive concrete (think Barbican skyscrapers, National Theatre, Trellick tower…), on its top there are two things that should be seen: a very good restaurant and a hell of a view.
We shall start with a precious tip: when you book, ask for a table by the window. As you wait to be seated, walk to the floor above to experience the viewing gallery, a 360-degree area with a bar. No, it’s not one of those bars where they pester you to order; you can simply walk around and enjoy the amazing panorama from the heart of London.
Once you are seated overlooking the City, you can finally get down to the menu. Described as “modern European”, it includes French, Italian and also British cuisine – with none of the unnecessary cream of classic French cookery; more variety than the beloved Italian tradition; and trends coming from Spain and Germany. It’s the creation of Polish chef Krzysztof Zachwieja, recently appointed (September 2013) to bring Paramount to a higher level – metaphorically, unless there are planning permissions I’m not aware of.
It’s a Monday night and the restaurant is full, the clientele is smart but not snobby (pretty much the opposite of what you might find at Chiltern Firehouse) and the atmosphere is very pleasant. It’s a high-end place; drinks shift between £12 and £15 but if you fancy champagne you can get a delicious glass of Larmandier-Bernier for a very decent £13.
On a trendy black lacquer wood table, you’ll be served a classic portion of bread and butter as you wait for your mains.
We opt for the Pan Seared Foie Gras, Shallots, William Pear & Smoked Onion and Scottish Lobster, Island of Wight Tomato, Piquillo Pepper Emulsion & Tomato Consommé. The foie gras is a joy for your mouth (if you try not to think about how the duck was force-fed), a little too thinly cut but very tasty and perfectly cooked. The pear purée it comes with and the two different onions (shallot and smoked onion) create a perfect balance. The lobster looks great and it’s very refreshing – it’s a cold course, which I don’t expect. Every ingredient carries a distinct aroma but the plate lacks that spark that should result from combining each element. The glass of Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2012 by Momo, from New Zealand, proves a good pairing.
Some people are more interested in starters. Chefs feel free to experiment further and be bold, and starters are also less expensive so we are unconsciously more inclined to take a risk. It’s true, there’s more room for fun with the menu, but at the end of the day, the most exciting moment is still the main course.
On the meat side there is duck, lamb, pork, veal and beef; they all look interesting but none of them stand out from the description. On the fish and veggie side we have skate, cod and risotto. There’s a bit of an imbalance there but I love meat therefore it’s not a problem and we choose to try the Challans Duck, Celeriac, Spring Carrots & Griottines Cherries and Trio of Aberdeen Angus Beef, Parsnip, Cipollini Onion, Sprouting Broccoli & Bordelaise Sauce. We also add a portion of Duck Fat Fried Chips: doesn’t it sound great? Unfortunately, the taste doesn’t meet the expectations at all.
The courses are both very good, especially the duck: the exquisite medium-rare cookery offers you a well-caramelised coating and a pink centre. All the vegetables in the dish are where you want them to be and create that x-factor when combined in your mouth. Especially when you are also sipping a glass of Pinot Noir, Marlborough & Henderson 2011 by Babich East Coast (again from New Zealand). The highlight of the trio of beef cuts is the super-soft braised short rib (I guess it’s cooked for at least twelve hours), although the rib eye and bone marrow are good as well. I love to use purple sprouting broccoli with meat so that’s another plus; though on the other hand, the parsnip purée is not mind-blowing.
The fateful dessert can always be a risky end to a meal, but luckily the chef plays it safe offering only the classics. Without hesitation, I go with the Warm Valhrona Chocolate Fondant, White Chocolate Ice Cream & White Chocolate Sauce and we also try the Tahitian Vanilla Crème Brulée & Cinnamon Tuile. Both are solid dishes, offering neither excitement or disappointment.
Paramount is a place worth trying: if you’ve never been it’s time to go and experience a pleasant and unpretentious fine-dining evening; if you have been in the past, forget your last visit – it’s totally different now and is becoming another pin on London’s map of foodie hotspots.
Filippo L’Astorina, the Editor
Photos: Laura Denti
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To book a table at Paramount, Centre Point, 101-103 New Oxford St, London WC1A 1DD, call 020 7420 2900 or enquire here.