Most big cities are referred to by their natives as just that – the city. But in London, “the City” is just the historic square mile occupying the greater metropolis of the Big Smoke. While it’s a small area, one could argue it’s one of the largest financial contributors, with multinational banks and legal firms headquartered there.
Back in the 80s, the suits got to work early, stayed late, and didn’t bother hitting the local streets for fun. Nowadays, the city has been all sexed up, and is luring workers to stay even later, and spend their bonuses around the corner.
Society is one of the new kids on the block. It’s a modern place, with two faces: a trendy bar and cool restaurant. A DJ and a license to stay open past 2am make this is a late-night lounge to be taken seriously. But this is exactly the sort of spot that normally has me sceptical about the food. After all, with so much effort put into pulling the partiers, can the chef produce more than nibble platters? The answer…is a surprising, yes.
I was prepared to find the food mediocre. The starter was scallops with cauliflower puree. To be fair, this wasn’t Society’s shining moment. It was clear the pan wasn’t hot enough before the scallops were thrown in as they had a barely golden appearance, and the puree was more like a slightly bitter cauliflower soup. But the mains are where the chef knocked me back. I decided to go for it, choosing a challenging dish: seared tuna Nicoise salad.
Anybody who favours their tuna “blue” can vouch for the fact that it’s what separates the men from the boys (or women from girls) in the kitchen. The quality of the tuna and the heat of the pan can make, or break the end product.
But I was in a risk-taking mood. My companion was not. She ordered crumbed fish and chips, which delivered exactly what it promised, much to her delight, particularly the skinny fries. But the tuna did more than delight. It sent me into another orbit. Thick wedges of meaty flesh drizzled in olive oil and a bit of sea salt melted in my mouth. They sat atop salad leaves and delicate tomatoes showered in a subtle, perfect vinaigrette. Frankly, I’ve been lucky to sample the tuna steak at some of London’s finest, and found this one beat almost all of them. For the low, low price of £13.50, I can think of far worse places to ride out the recession.
Our mains were so filling; we hardly had room for the sides but forced ourselves to sample the tomato, basil and pesto salad. To make that dish perfect, they should find a better tomato supplier, but the basil was bountiful. And the French beans with pine nuts, had us coming back for more.
Just a few minutes’ walk from St. Paul’s, Society is a good bet for lunch, especially if your entertaining budget’s been cut or for a casual dinner if you’re in the neighbourhood. The lovely, windy path down to Blackfriars Lane from the Cathedral is filled with little pubs and other places to distract from the walk.
Society Bar and Restaurant
33 Blackfriars Lane
City of London
(Near Blackfriars, St. Paul’s, Mansion House, Temple, and Farringdon tubes)
0207 248 1323