The spectacular vistas across the Thames (to St Paul’s Cathedral and Somerset House) are the draw at this iconic South Bank spot. Owners Harvey Nicks reshuffled things a while ago so that drinkers can also properly enjoy uninterrupted views without dining in the expensive brasserie or restaurant.
The best approach is to book a bar table, though some spaces are always kept back for walk-ins. You then wait to be seated – even the high stools and tables on the terrace are booked, though if you turn right, there is a no-seating, no-bookings observation platform (you may need to wait your turn if it’s busy).
On our most recent visit we found the service haphazard, and although the drinks were well-made with good spirits, they were expensive for what they were – a Pimm’s fruit cup cost £9, plus a 12.5 per cent service charge on top. It’s not the cosiest of places, and has the feel of a cruise ship. But you just have to love those views.
Headed up by bar manager Paulius Patumsis, the OXO Tower Bar presents an ever-evolving list of cocktails, making use of the most innovative techniques and products on the market. Sample creative house mixes like the Penicillin (a warming mix of Dewar’s scotch with lemon, honey, ginger and a splash of Laphroaig), or the Good Queen Bess with gin and raspberry ripple. World wines and fine spirits are also available, as well as a list of craft beers cherry-picked from small-batch breweries.
To complement the drinks list, the innovative bar menu features some great snacking options including salt and pepper squid with a parmesan aioli or anchovies with a goat’s cheese mousse and Melba toasts. For something a little heartier, opt for the express lunch menu and tuck into a juicy burger with triple-cooked chips, or keep it traditional and enjoy fish and chips with tartare sauce.