Restaurants in the City have many roles to fill – from meeting rooms to celebration halls – and they do this in a variety of ways. Sauterelle is on the mezzanine level of the Royal Exchange, so diners can watch the action of the shopping centre from above. Or, for those who just want a quick lunch, there's City Càphê, one of the best bánh mì (basically a Vietnamese baguette) delis in the whole of London.
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There’s a dedicated entrance for the restaurants in Heron Tower, from where a glass lift will whizz you in seconds up to Duck & Waffle on the 40th floor, or its glitzier sibling Sushisamba two floors below. The views are, as you might expect, stunning – if you’re pointed in the right direction and, preferably, sitting at a window table (many of which are for two diners only).
‘Visitor bag search’, the sign read. Next to it was a walk-through metal detector and a burly security guard. He had a glint in his eye, the kind that says, ‘I’ve got a box of latex gloves here, and if I find so much as a nail file in your purse, I won’t be afraid to use them.’ So we approached the receptionist instead. ‘Is this the way to City Social?’ ‘No,’ she sighed, ‘this is the main entrance, you’ll need the side door, opposite Wagamama.’ Happily, there’s only a single gatekeeper at the alternative entrypoint, so once you negotiate a long, oppressive tunnel and an express lift so fast it’ll make your ears pop – boom – you’re in.
There's more to this Belgian restaurant and bar than just mussels, even if the pots, platters and bowls of moules are what this long-standing chain is probably best known for. There are more than 52 Belgian beers on offer for starters, and a food menu that ranges from rotisserie-roasted chickens to burgers, steaks, short ribs of beef and crispy bellies of pork. This Covent Garden branch - the group's second of four in London - has been going for nearly 20 years. It's a huge space, with two separate rooms (a dining room and a beer hall) set over 12,000 square feet between Shelton Street and Earlham Street, just down from Seven Dials. Many visit for the mussels, and there's a range of different dishes on offer, from the 'traditionelle' cooked in a white wine, celery, garlic and onion broth to the Thai (lemongrass, chilli, ginger, kaffir lime, coconut and coriander) and the 'Monroe', cooked in Leffe Blonde beer with pancetta and shallots. Keep an eye out for express lunches, too.