By Jonathan Hatchman, Food Editor, @TLE_Food
With thousands of restaurants open across London, there’s always been a disappointing lack in popularity that surrounds Moroccan cuisine. Thankfully, however, a brand new seven-week summer pop-up has arrived at the top of London’s iconic 30 St. Mary’s Axe – best known as The Gherkin. Not only does the new Moroccan Sky Riad bring a slice of North Africa to East London, the views that accompany the experience are absolutely sensational. The weather, upon our recent visit, was less than brilliant but grey skies aside; the panoramic views from the space that’s 180 metres above street level cannot be compromised.
Arriving a little early for our booking, we jump at the chance to test-drive the 40th floor’s bar. Designed by Fantastique London, intending to create the ambience and character of traditional Marrakesh nightlife, souks and bazaars, we’re surrounded by VIP beds and city workers, sampling the drinks menu from Head Mixologist Federico Geniale. My Girlfriend opts for the Bgheet Neshred (simply meaning: ‘give me a drink’), a concoction of Orange Marmalade, Martini Rosato, Black Cardamom and Prosecco as well as a selection of Moroccan spices. Meanwhile, the waiter suggests that it’s impossible to go wrong with the bar’s own take on an Old Fashioned, featuring Date-infused Rum. The drinks are great, and what’s even better is; after having waited for twenty minutes (we’d expected this during such a busy time, and having been so enthralled by the outstanding views, we’d barely noticed the length of the wait), the waiter arrives with our drinks, apologetically claiming that they’re on the house due to the delay. Bonus.
On to downstairs’ ‘Art of Spice’ Tasting Menu, we’re joined by more incredible views, with almost every seat in the restaurant located just feet from a window (a rarity against most of the City’s other skyscraper topping restaurants). Designed by Chef Matt Edmonds, the five-course foray takes us on a culinary journey that’s inspired by the Chef’s honeymoon in Assaouira, spent sampling the locale dishes. To start, dishes include a dollop of spiced Mango that’s dredged in a cool Pickled Cucumber soup-like sauce (of course, there has to be at least one homage to the building’s nickname). Three Harissa-spiced Prawns that explode in the back of your mouth, are also delicious. Served with Black Olive crumbs and a slither of Cactus Fruit that tastes surprisingly similar to Watermelon, albeit less watery. Elsewhere, Mint Tea, Argan, Fig and Saffron accompany a fillet of perfectly cooked black Bream – although the expensive Saffron’s taste is almost non-existent, having been overpowered by the sweet Fig. Yet the spices that form the main of Lamb Cannon’s marinade are powerfully delectable, adding a real depth of flavour without delivering too much fiery heat. To finish the delicious menu, a Rose Opalyse crémeux is joined with a bitter Lemon Rose Sorbet to cleanse the palate before an extra Moroccan Mint Tea provides a magnificent finale.
The exceptional views, alone, as well as the prestige of visiting one of London’s most famous skyscrapers is enough to make the Moroccan Sky Riad a must visit. The fact that the tasting menu is also remarkable makes the foodie pilgrimage even more essential. Don’t miss out on visiting before the Moroccan Sky Riad closes in September.
The Moroccan Sky Riad can be found at 30 St Mary Axe, London, EC3A 8EP and is set to run until September 5th 2015.