Oblix: A roast with a view

There's a new Sunday roast menu at Oblix on the 32nd floor of London's tallest building

The Oblix restaurant, at the Shard
(Image credit: ©james morris)

The pleasure derived from eating in a restaurant depends on many things, only one of which is the quality of the food. The conviviality – or otherwise – of the service plays its part, as does the ambience of the room and the tenor of the diner's own mood. A missed train, a stubbed toe or an unreturned phone call can scupper a meal just as surely as an overcooked steak.

Oblix, on the 32nd floor of the Shard, near London Bridge, must contend with yet another great imponderable: the weather. The atmosphere inside the restaurant is intimately connected with the atmosphere outside and the show it puts on against the floor-to-ceiling windows.

I'd been to the Shard once before, on a grim winter's day of low cloud, driving rain and broken umbrellas. The view from the observation deck was less than inspiring. This time, however, I stepped out of the lift to a tableau of blue skies, bright sunshine and a pair of vintage biplanes puttering about among fluffy white clouds. I was therefore predisposed to enjoy Oblix's new Sunday roast menu, which unleashes its high-end chefs into a market dominated by budget carveries, country pubs and home cooks.

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The kitchen is at the centre of the restaurant and the tables are arranged around it, sideways on, so there's no fighting about who's looking in or out. We time our arrival well, getting a place at the window in the northwest corner of the room, looking out towards the river and the city.

Since it's Sunday lunchtime, a Bloody Mary seems like a fitting start to proceedings before we pick a bottle of beaujolais from the lower reaches of a steeply priced wine list. "It's good value for money," says the sommelier, somewhat doubtfully, before praising its "animal notes". In retrospect, it may not have been praise.

The rest of the service is enthusiastic, verging on cheeky, which makes for an enjoyable afternoon. The food is pitched somewhere in between laid-back gastropub and fine dining, and mostly it lands with aplomb. Roast suckling pig, in particular, is pretty on the plate and a joy to eat. Three tightly wound roulades of tender pork, melting fat and crackling deliver a delightful blend of succulence and crunch.

The other highlight, oddly, is a side dish of carrots, which are more delicious than is proper for a root vegetable. They're also quite beautiful, their various shades of yellow, orange and maroon glistening under a sweet, buttery glaze that may account for their moreishness. The roasted potatoes are less enticing – too prim and proper for their own good – but the horseradish mash, also slathered in butter, is another winner.

The dessert menu takes a turn upmarket. In the absence of sticky toffee pudding or a chocolate brownie, I pick what looks like the closest approximation: a pecan nut and chocolate bar, with crunchy bourbon ice cream. It's lighter and moussier than I had expected, and I look wistfully across the table at the pear and chocolate choux buns, which have the heft and yield of a proper post-roast pudding.

As we finish our meal, the flight paths change and the biplanes are replaced by a stream of airliners coming in to land at Heathrow. They approach from the north, turning right over St Paul's, their bellies tilted towards us, then on over the Thames past Tate Modern, the Houses of Parliament and the London Eye.

Some of the visitors descending over the city, returning their tray tables to the upright position, will no doubt seek out a Sunday roast during their stay in England. Should they come to Oblix? They might find a more authentic rendering of the great British tradition elsewhere, but they won't find it served with a finer view.

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Holden Frith is The Week’s digital director. He also makes regular appearances on “The Week Unwrapped”, speaking about subjects as diverse as vaccine development and bionic bomb-sniffing locusts. He joined The Week in 2013, spending five years editing the magazine’s website. Before that, he was deputy digital editor at The Sunday Times. He has also been TheTimes.co.uk’s technology editor and the launch editor of Wired magazine’s UK website. Holden has worked in journalism for nearly two decades, having started his professional career while completing an English literature degree at Cambridge University. He followed that with a master’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University in Chicago. A keen photographer, he also writes travel features whenever he gets the chance.