The Thames isn’t the only thing that’s flowing: Cocktails with a view at the Oxo Tower Bar
For me, and many Londoners, the jewel in the city’s crown has to be the River Thames. As well as providing a great way to travel, the rivers also showcases some fine bridges and is bordered by some of the capital’s most iconic buildings and attractions. No visit to London would not be complete for tourists without a visit to the River Thames and some of its sights.
When it comes to dining and drinking riverside, there are lots of options ranging from the affordable (Pizza Express Bankside or Giraffe in the Southbank Centre) to the lavish (Skylon at the Royal Festival Hall or Pont De La Tour on Shad Thames).
However, few of these Thames-side diners come with such a spectacular – and heady – view as the Oxo Tower Bar and Restaurant. I first went to the restaurant in 2001 for a family birthday meal – five years after it had opened and remember the tasty oysters and friendly service. The bar and restaurant is located on the eighth floor of the iconic building, with an outdoor terrace for alfresco drinking when the weather’s good. But before I wax lyrical on the amazing cocktails, good service and views I experienced on my recent visit, a little bit of history behind the building.
To those who have grown up in Britain, the brand of Oxo is well-known for its stock cubes. Although the building was originally built as a power station for the Post Office in the late 19th century, it was acquired by Liebeg (Oxo’s manufacturers) in the late 1920s. Although much of the building was demolished, the façade remained and was extended. Architect Albert W Moore (1874-1965) proposed spelling out Oxo in electric lights on the tower, but was refused permission, so the compromise of Oxo written in the window panes was agreed.
However, after Oxo moved out, over the years, the building fell into decline. However, a resurgence was in the pipeline when it was acquired by the Coin Street Community Builders in 1984. In the 1990s, the building and tower were refurbished to a high standard, giving the building over to shops, galleries, residential and restaurant space, with the latter opening as Oxo Tower Restaurant in 1996.
Still highly commended as one of London’s best restaurants, you are advised to book ahead to eat. However, when it comes to the bar, you may be lucky enough to have availability. On a sunny Friday afternoon in July, a friend and I decided to go up to the bar on the spur of the moment and were thrilled to be given a balcony-view table.
The extensive cocktail menu includes many original creations by Oxo’s mixologists, many of which are London and Thames-themed, with the average price of £12.50 per drink (average West End price for cocktails are £8-£9 so you’re paying a bit extra for the quality and setting). I chose a fruity Pleasure Boat – a Tiki-style drink complete with Tiki cup available to take home (for a price). The drink was a concoction of ‘Elements 8 barrel infused spiced rum & house orgeat, shaken with fresh pineapple, scooped passion fruit, fresh lime, falernum & aromatic bitters’ and tasted really good. My friend opted for a Port Of London, a refreshing combination of HN LBV Port, Beefeater winter release gin, lime cordial and lemon.
The service was friendly and efficient, our drinks came with a little plate of peanuts – a nice bonus that only the best cocktail bars provide – and the view was amazing. I can highly recommend the venue for drinks for a special occasion or something to remember to visitors.
- Oxo Tower Restaurant, Brasserie and Bar, Barge House Street, South Bank, SE1 9PH. Nearest station: Blackfriars or Waterloo. Visit the website for more information and booking.
For a list of other Metro Girl’s bar and restaurant reviews, click here.