By Guy Dimond
Nearly halfway up the Shard, Oblix is the first of a few bars and restaurants to open in Western Europe’s tallest building (the others being Aqua Shard Hutong, and Shard 35). Nando’s and McDonald’s didn’t get a look-in at this glimmering landmark; the Shard is reserved for platinum-card restaurateurs such as Rainer Becker. He’s best-known for his outstanding modern Japanese restaurants, Zuma and Roka. His new venture, by contrast, is more West than East.
Oblix feels more awkward than its blingtastic siblings. You need to get past a battery of gatekeepers before being admitted to the restaurant. Along the way you traverse viewless corridors and a dark hallway which appears to be made of Toblerone. It’s about as welcoming as boarding a Klingon spacecraft.
Turn right and you find the restaurant with its fabulous open kitchen and smart tables. Turn left and you’re taken to the bar. I was told the restaurant was already fully booked weeks ahead, as were all the reservable seats in the bar. We therefore arrived early to take advantage of the small no-bookings area in the bar, which serves a simpler but similar menu to the restaurant.
The temptation, when you enter a room that’s 32 floors up, is to rush to the windows, press your nose to the glass and take in the view. Most other bar-restaurants that find themselves similarly blessed (notably Sushisamba) allow you to do this freely and at leisure. In contrast the Oblix bar has bookable tables and chairs blocking this sought-after periphery, forcing you to invade someone else’s space. Do it anyway. The restaurant side has the better views (including such sights as the London Eye and Houses of Parliament) as well as a tiny bar counter where you can eyeball central London; those from the bar side, of green, hilly south-east London, are also impressive.
Twenty paces back from the glass, seated at the no-bookings table, our succession of dishes almost made up for the absence of a view. The presentation was like that at Zuma, but the menu resembled a New York grill. A starter of tataki-style beef (£12) was a few tasty morsels while the main course of halibut (£28) was perfectly cooked, though rather oddly served with something resembling a dollop of lemon curd. Pork belly (£16) was perhaps the best dish – the meat pink and tender, the skin nicely crisped, served with a piquant apple chutney. Desserts consisted mainly of ice-cream combinations, though the New York cheesecake (£9) was exemplary.
Oblix is expensive and showy, and has a Dubai-style blandness to it. Most diners will come here expecting an impressive panorama – but The View from The Shard, at more than twice the height of Oblix and with dedicated viewing platforms, is a far better choice of lookout.