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Curve Restaurant and Bar, Canary Wharf

Stephen Higginson went happily round the bend!

Maybe I am hard to please, but in spite of there being more restaurants than ever before, it is not that often that I try somewhere new and immediately start to plan a return visit. But one such place is Curve Restaurant & Bar , occupying a chunk of the ground floor of the glamorous new-ish five star Marriott Hotel - a dramatic knife edged glass tower of an hotel dominating West India Quay at Canary Wharf in the heart of London's redeveloped Docklands.

Although crying out to be on the top floor – that would surely have made it a destination eaterie – the 90 seat street level Curve has undergone a recent refurbishment and now has a comfy contemporary up-market hotel ambience with the obligatory ‘fish tank’ kitchen area, dark wood floors, blue and ochre walls, stylish table furniture and a new bar area plus an oyster bar – all benefiting from yes – a curved floor to ceiling sweeping glass wall, overlooking the pedestrian piazza and gentrified dock of West India Quay. Also refurbished at the same time, in April 2006, was the menu, refocusing on fish.

As one can virtually see Billingsgate fish market through that curved window if you stand on a chair, it was a smart move, because the journey from market to table is only a few hundred yards – and you can’t get much fresher than that. The result is that Curve offers a simple but mouthwatering menu of fish and seafood, with a blackboard displaying daily specials, all hand picked each morning by Chef Jolly, one of Marriotts top chefs, who recently joined Curve from the Mariott Resort in Goa . With an ambition to make Curve one of London’s top fish restaurants, I would say that he was already well on his way.

There is a grill menu too – serving top quality fillet ( £22)and rib-eye (£19) steaks, surf and turf skewers (£19) and char grilled baby chicken (£15) if fish is not your thing . If it is, there is also what Curve calls the ‘Raw Bar’ serving such delights as a king and lump crab salad, Galway oysters on ice and a Curve seafood tower (£28) - ½ lobster, razor clams, king prawns, oysters, mussels and clams. Phew!

Whilst checking out the nine starters – ranging from £6.50 to £9.75 – we tried a couple of classic cocktails - a 5 Star Mojito and a Margarita – both excellent with no skimping on the light rum or tequila. This generosity of ingredients turned out to run right through Curve's offer, where all portions could be described as ‘trencherman’ sized.

Tempura battered baby calamari (£8) tossed in sezhuan pepper and sea salt and garnished with cucumber and been shoots, and pan-fried Madagascan jumbo prawns (£9.75), with coriander and chilli butter, proved excellent choices to start. The calamari was ultra fresh and tender and the batter light and crunchy.The five large char grilled prawns had a wonderful smoky edge and the garnish was a perfectly balanced, flavourful touch. Care and attention radiated from the plates.

On the main course fish menu were six options – mussels, cod, monkfish tail, red mullet, Dover sole and sea bass. We chose the roast monkfish tail with crushed potatoes, watercress and extra virgin olive oil (£17.50), and the pan-fried fillets of line-caught sea bass (£19). All side orders were a very reasonable £2.50 or £3.50 and we chose bistro fries ( kept piping hot in small bucket!) – chunky, lightly salted and superb – with sautéed spinach and buttered snow peas, both cooked and seasoned to perfection and with a ‘straight from the garden’ texture and taste.

The monkfish my companion described as “spot on and stunningly fresh” and was delicate, beautifully presented, and needing nothing else other than the olive oil and coriander to make it stand up as a very moor-ish main course. Similarly the sea bass – the phrase ‘melted in the mouth’ was coined for this dish; line caught and served with tiny piquant pickled lemons, parsley and olive oil, it was right in tune with the zeitgeist. Wonderful!

From the good wine list –with a fine selection available by the glass - we dallied with a Muscadet Domaine du Cleray, but finally chose a good basic Sauvignon Blanc La Campagne, Vin de Pays d’Oc , and at £18 , the kind of price most customers would probably choose to pay. Excellent in both its fresh, light fruity taste and just right temperature.

Of the seven items on the dessert menu, two were low fat ‘healthy options’, however, indulgence was the route we chose. Thai Crème Brulée for me and Oven Roasted Pistachio Cheesecake for my companion. Again the presentation was fantastic – as were the flavours and the portions. The slice of cheesecake - garnished with strawberries, vanilla pod, chantilly and an unusual ribbon-like strip of raspberry ‘chip’ - we estimated at around 20 cm long! Creamy but not too dense, it was perfectly balanced in the mouth by the fruity additions. The Thai Crème Brulée came with coconut sago, lime and pandan leaf.  With a voluptuous texture, this was another superb flavour-balancing act from Chef Jolly's team.

Service was attentive and very efficient; could that be because our helpful and charming waiter – Christian – was from Germany!? We watched him at the other tables too, and he never missed a trick. He provided a great complement to the thoughtful, carefully prepared menu. The deceptively simple is deceptively hard to achieve; however, the Curve triumphs.

Stephen Higginson December 2006

Curve Restaurant & Bar, 22 Hertsmere Road, Canary Wharf, London E14 4ED Reservations 020 7517 2808.


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