14 Hills in the City: Delightful French-inspired plates set against a stunning skyline
Soon after the 6pm office cut-off, the City sounds very quiet. For those not working in London’s Square Mile, it’s a destination worth visiting primarily to get on top of the tall buildings and enjoy the view. Local stores are small and the restaurants are largely conceived for work lunches and quick bites. With this in mind, 14 Hills invites guests to sit back and linger in the moment to savour the atmosphere, the panorama and the good food and drink.
The green interior design, with its forest appearance and pink palette, has been curated by Robert Angell. In the evening, dim lights introduce a romantic mood, which is further enhanced if you are lucky enough to get a seat right next to the outwards-looking windows.
The prices remind us we are in the high-flying, most business-driven area of the capital, but what is on offer are luscious ingredients with a French interpretation. Head chef Thomas Piat – arriving fresh from Paris, where he worked at Jòia par Hélène Darroze, and returning to London, where he previously held the role of executive chef at Bar Boulud – has prepared a menu that brings attention to the main element in each plate. The names, indeed, are the like of Beetroot – for which he means “heritage beets, apple and quinoa salad” – or Halibut – “samphire, seaweed beurre blanc, herring roe, smoked dried tomatoes”.
After a first glass of Chandon, we are open for business and we inaugurate the order with some spirits from the bar. The Hive introduces dulcet notes in a smooth combination of tequila and mezcal infused with thyme, a touch of fresh lime, honey and carved ice that shows careful attention to presentation. Mostly motivated by curiosity, for the first starter we choose Truffle, which boasts a rare-breed egg boiled at 63 degrees for over an hour. Through this way of cooking, both the yolk and the white remain of the same jelly-poached consistency. Having this meeting in the same plate with shavings of winter black truffle and a crunchy slice of sourdough bread pleases the palate with gusto. The King Scallop feels quite lost in the trio of cauliflower while finding the perfect companion in the raisin purée and brown butter and caper sauce.
Another game of contrasting textures is played in the Rossini. The beef fillet, tender and juicy, sits on a thick mushroom duxelles and is crowned by seared duck liver. The truffle – which, at this point, we understand to be a constant – and Madeira sauce gracefully add the final touch. Though less of an inspiring course, the Wild Mushroom reassuringly still delivers the intense flavour of the vegetables. The accompanying Brussel sprouts are a bit too al dente but succulent nonetheless.
The light and fruity hints of La Cuvée du Chat, from Chateau Cambon, is a rich pairing for the meaty courses. It may be a bit less glossy than a pinot noir, but the raspberry notes don’t hit immediately, leaving a pleasing aftertaste.
The lure of the Chocolate Fondant is ineluctable. The dessert is composed of a compact base with a melted heart of chocolate sauce, topped with pistachio ice cream. Opposite consistencies, once again, are the main theme. The freshness of the pistachio softens the dense chocolate component. For those seeking a more classic, though rich, cake, the Custard is the one to go for; apparently, it’s one of the most successful puddings among customers. This well-executed tart comes with a spoon of salted caramel ice cream, which nicely balances the cream. A glazed vibrancy from the 4 Vents Côteaux du Layon, of Pithon-Paillé, sweetly matches this latter dish.
The excitement of dining on “top of the world” with the gleaming London skyline in front of your eyes can be elegantly enjoyed in the romantic French environment of 14 Hills. The stereotyped frenzied finance hub now has a charming place for those seeking to escape the jungle of business and enter a garden of delight.
Photos: Maria Barrios
To book a table at 14 Hills,120 Fenchurch Street London EC3M 5BA, call 0203 981 5222 or visit their website here.