The general consensus has always been that the better the view, the worse the food in a restaurant.
Though that might be less true these days, it sort of tallies that The Coal Shed is slightly out of sight of Tower Hill, despite being part of the One Tower Bridge development.
The offshoot of the successful and well-liked restaurant of the same name in Brighton, the focus here is on – you guessed it – roasting over charcoal.
It gives off the effect of being a steak house, though the menu goes far beyond, particularly at brunch.
The headline act, however, isn’t that much of a departure: a surf and turf meal for two, with a seemingly unending list of meats and fish included.
You’re treated to aged sirloin, a bacon chop, smoked black-pudding, scallop and pork-belly skewers, tiger prawns, mussels cooked with nduja. All of that is served with fried eggs on top, in an effort to make it more brunch-like.
The first thing to say is this is a lot of food. And it’s more turf than surf, but it’s still superb value; bearing in mind the decently high quality of the ingredients and the good level of cooking.
Just don’t plan on going to the nearby Bridge Theatre for a matinee show straight after, for fear of falling asleep. With that out of the way, you should know that the prawns and mussels are deliciously prepared, liberally spiced and dotted with that nduja. It’s both a delicious addition to the meal and a welcome diversion from the fatty and meaty notes pervasive throughout.
That’s down to the assorted cuts of meat on the table. It’s an order straight out of Man v Food, complete with Adam Richman weighing the dish it’s presented on and making terrified faces.
There needn’t be any reason to be scared; the sirloin, in particular, is superb – offering a deep umami flavour from the ageing process while being well-seasoned. The charcoal cooking gives it a particularly crusty exterior which gives way to perfectly medium rare beef. The black pudding is also handled really well, smoky without being overwhelming.
Really the only misstep is the pork belly, which comes skewered with (very good) scallops and grilled. It suffers in comparison, with none of the crispiness of crackling you expect.
You’re also allowed to pick two side dishes. We choose the truffle mac and cheese, an excellently creamy and rich interpretation, and a grilled (more charred, really) hispi cabbage, as buttery as it is trendy – and absolutely delicious.
Somehow though, despite all of this meat, one of the stars of the show is that brunch staple: avocado toast. As with everything else at Coal Shed, the portion is incredibly generous, and the ingredients stand out. It’s one of the better seasoned versions in London, bolstered by the equally good heritage tomatoes, and excellent stracciatella; the thinking person’s Cheesestrings.
However, I’d be hard pressed not to recommend the brunch, as much for the quality of the food as the sheer value for what you receive. If you’re not trying to enter a food coma, though, then the steaks from the a la carte menu are the way to go; they’re in one of the top tiers of steaks available in London right now, and they’re well worth a look.
The Coal Shed, One Tower Bridge, 4 Crown Square SW1 2SE: coalshed-restaurantlondon.co.uk; open daily; 020 3384 7272
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