A colleague recommended Le Pont de la Tour for its superb views of Tower Bridge (for which it’s named) and the Tower of London, from a perch along the boardwalk on the south bank of the Thames. There are numerous outdoor tables. None of these were available, but I was given an excellent window table facing the Tower, and as the windows were wide open, it amounted to the same thing. The décor is refined and elegant. I was overheated from an unexpectedly long walk, and started with a Pimms cocktail (£5.95) to cool off.
The menu is squarely in the French tradition. My colleague particularly recommended the chateaubriand, advice that several reviews on the web confirmed, but this signature dish is available only for two. I asked the server for an alternative recommendation. He must love the menu, for he went on to describe pretty much all of it, but his knowledge of the cuisine was impeccable—at least for the two dishes I tried. All of the options placed Le Pont de la Tour squarely in the French tradition.
I started with the morteaux sausage (£9.50), which came sliced, and with a honey mustard sauce. Sea trout, at £18.00, was the least expensive of the main courses. I wasn’t particularly looking to economize, but the server said the poached sea trout was ideal if one didn’t want to eat anything “heavy,” which was indeed the case on a sweltering evening. I’m usually not keen on filet fish prepared that simply, but this dish showed there are an exceptions to every rule when the flesh is as tender and the preparation as perfect as this one was.
The sommelier recommended a wonderful half-bottle of Chablis. I’m most definitely not a Chablis guy—it always seems to be the dullest of the white grapes, the way Merlot so often is among the reds. But this one, at £19.25, was wonderful, showing that even Chablis can rise above the commonplace.
When I arrived shortly after 8:00 p.m., most of the inside tables weren’t yet occupied, but by the time I’d finished my appetizer and main course—around 9:00 p.m.—the restaurant was nearly full. Service had been superb up to that point, but things slowed down considerably. It would take another 50 minutes for me to order and receive an order of French Coffee (£6.75), and to settle my bill. It was nice to know that they weren’t hurrying to unseat me from my table with a prime view, but that coffee took an awfully long time to prepare.
All-in, dinner came to £59.45 before tip.
Le Pont de al Tour (Butlers Wharf, 36d Shad Thames, London SE1 2YE)