I’ve eaten in Tate Modern Restaurant a few times but never in the evening before, always at lunchtime. I never fail to be awed by the view: how can you resist a view like this, straight across the Thames and Millennium Bridge to St Paul’s, while enjoying a great meal? My lovely daughter Nicola and I had been to see the Matisse Cut-Outs exhibition: a glorious collection of the amazing cut-outs that Matisse produced in the last 14 years of his life. Too ill to stand and paint, he found an alternative way to create art and these wonderful works are so vibrant, so full of colour and joy, they are incredibly life affirming. I can’t imagine anyone seeing them and not being both moved and uplifted by them.
Eating in the restaurant afterwards was the most obvious thing to do. Nicola hadn’t been before and so this was another reason to go; why would we go anywhere else? We arrived early for our booking but they were happy to let us have a table straight away. The welcome was so friendly. Throughout the meal, the service was excellent: friendly, helpful and informative. While we looked at the menu, we ordered two glasses of champagne to begin. Nicola and I invariably use just being out together – sometimes just cooking for each other! – as an excuse for champagne. The real thing: not prosecco, not cava but French champagne. This was Billecart-Salmon and excellent. What a treat!
We decided against a starter, although they were very tempting. But we didn’t want three courses and thought we’d rather opt for a dessert later. There was a great choice of main courses too and we spent a little time pondering what to have but in the end we both opted for the same thing: Line Caught Cod, Suffolk Chorizo, Baby Leeks, Tomato & Harissa Vinaigrette.
It was excellent: wonderfully moist and tasty cod, perfectly cooked; sweet little baby leeks and gorgeous pieces of salty chorizo. And – chorizo from Suffolk? That was a first – and very good too. We ordered some herb mash to accompany it: smooth and creamy and delicious.
We’d noticed there were some very interesting wines – we’d almost opted for an English champagne though stuck with known French in the end – but each course on the menu had recommended wines by the glass and we thought that was great. It seemed a good idea to go with the suggestion for the cod: Dominique Portet Brut Rose NV, Yarra Valley, Australia. A bit more fizz. Rose fizz this time and good.
When it came to dessert, I opted for the grand indulgence of Chocolate Mille-Feuille, Praline, Salted caramel, Griotinne Cherries and Milk Ice Cream.
And yes, it was as good as it looks! Pleasingly, it wasn’t too sweet and was surprisingly light. Absolutely gorgeous. Nicola, meanwhile, opted for cheese. And the ‘Flight of wines’ that came with it: three 50ml glasses of wine to match the three different cheeses. Some port for the blue cheese, vinho verde for the goats’ cheese and a tokay for the cheddar.
Fortunately she was happy to give me tastes of all three cheeses and all three wines! What a splendid cheese course. I had an espresso to finish (the only slight disappointment: not very good coffee), but we’d had a lovely meal and it was the most wonderful setting. We discussed how great it was to be there in the summer with the view, but our waitress told us she liked it in the winter with all the lights and everything lit up. So obviously we’ll have to return later in the year!
We left the restaurant and made our way out via the Mark Rothko Seagram paintings. These are so extraordinary. We just sat quietly in their special room looking at them for a while. Which is what you’re meant to do: a kind of meditation rather than anything loud and busy.
The walk back to Waterloo along the embankment was lovely in the evening light. Almost the longest day – summer solstice tomorrow – and a what a wonderful way to celebrate summer, and the company of one’s daughter, the evening had been.
Update May 2016: A visit to Tate Modern Restaurant last night showed everything changed and sadly for the worse: no linen tablecloths but kid-friendly paper ones with drawings for them to colour in covering the table, crayons in glass … not taken away even though it was evening and I was with a friend. The menu had gone down market (albeit cheaper); the food was indifferent, carafe of wine not great, the service poor (they added things we hadn’t had to our bill and it was nearly twice what we should pay. My friend had to cross the restaurant to a till because we couldn’t attract a waiter’s attention to come back. Then it took them ages to sort out with us having the explain what we’d had). More bar seats by the window with high tables blocking the fabulous view for diners making it noisier and all the more a ‘bar’ experience. I came away feeling I didn’t want to go again.