Why Wharf tower is London's best restaurant site


Initially, Jamie Dobbin appears a little uptight as he recounts his CV on the black leather sofas in One Canada Sqaure's lobby.

Over his shoulder white hoardings dwarf the softly spoken northerner, concealing the embryonic restaurant that, as head chef, will become his fiefdom when it opens in September.

He's excited to be joining ETM Group (owner of The Gun and numerous other well realised venues across the capital and beyond) but once we're past the corporate bumph things warm up.

And that's because, despite being careful to sound measured about the "international brasserie" he's about to open at the very heart of the Wharf, he's unable to repress the enthusiasm he has for the project.

He said: "This is a great site, possibly the best in London. I thought Oriel, which is now Colbert in Sloane Square was a great location but this completely knocks the socks off that.

"This is an iconic building and what I would like to do is make sure we're living up to the grandeur of what this represents and continually trying to exceed our customers' expectations."

One Canada Square's interior, designed by David Collins, a man who Dobbin praises as "the best interior designer for our industry in Europe if not the world", will echo the building's existing marble scheme in a "timeless way that won't go out of fashion".

But what of the content? ETM want recognition as the best restaurant on the Wharf and they've poached a big-hitter to helm it.

After a four-year apprenticeship at Claridges, The Savoy and The Connaught (one of 12 places on an Academy of Culinary Arts course that attracts 2,000 applicants), Dobbin moved on to Henry Harris' Hush.

From there, in 2003, he joined The Ivy where he rose to head chef of the venue's private members' club.

He said: "I spent the best part of 10 years there and I learnt a great deal but this opportunity was fantastic. It's a wonderful chance to be able to build a restaurant from scratch.

"There are a lot of mid-range restaurants in Canary Wharf but this will be a chance for people to enjoy a different offer.

"My inspiration comes from all around the globe.

"We've got elements from Asia, from America, all these different kinds of techniques and operations that we've stolen from around the world but we're using our wonderful British produce to put them into play.

"Billingsgate Market is here so we've got the freshest fish in London on our doorstep and the best way to showcase that is an area of our menu that will be ceviches, carpaccios and tartares - all uncooked, cured or slightly marinated."

But Wharfers need not be frightened. Dobbin admits his favourite thing to cook at home is ham, egg and chips (notably on Christmas Day with Champagne for his wife to celebrate the birth of their child) and he recoils when I ask if One Canada Square will be fine dining.

He said: "In terms of its presentation and it's cookery my food could be called fine dining, but that's often associated with pretension.

"We kind of want to offer a really high end restaurant that's welcoming to all. We want it to be relaxed.

"We've got a fantastic bar menu, very snacky, and you can have both menus in the whole venue.

"We'll be doing things like sticky lamb ribs with anchovy hollandaise.

"We're also going to do a play on an afternoon tea - bone marrow scones with ox cheek jam. All the raw fish element of our menu will be in the bar."

But there's serious food here too, echoing the hearty menus of other ETM venues.

Dobbin said: "We've got a couple of standout dishes - a smoked eel and chicken wing combination with pickled apple, which is a fantastic starter.

"The carpaccio are really good especially the venison with rosemary and truffle dressing and artichokes.

"As we're opening in September, the game season is right there so we'll be doing a fantastic dish of salt baked grouse with pickled cherry and foie gras.

"We'll crush the salt up with some juniper, rosemary, egg white, bay leaf and igloo the grouse in it.

"Then we'll present it at the table so you've got this aromatic bird going through the restaurant.

"Then it's back to the kitchen, off the bone and add the pickled cherries and foie gras with a little bit of grated chocolate on top.

"People have a tendency to over-complicate food. Grouse, foie gras, chocolate; it sounds complicated but the flavours work well together."

Other delights for Wharfers will be the cocktail bar, which will offer drinks inspired by One Canada Square's seasonal menu and an event space on a mezzanine level available for private hire.

The restaurant will be open for breakfast (from 7am), lunch and dinner Monday-Friday and for brunch until 5pm on Saturdays.

We'll have to wait until September to see whether Dobbin's favourite snack of beans on toast with a poached egg and green tabasco sauce makes it onto the menu in either the bar or the restaurant. Here's hoping.

For more information about the venue follow @OneCanadaSquare on Twitter or go to onecanadasquarerestaurant.com.