This is the second recently-featured restaurants in which Michelin-starred restaurateur, Anthony Demetre (of Wild Honey and Arbutus fame), and the Searcys group are involved. The first of these was Osteria in the Barbican and now we have visited Urban Coterie which opened at the tail end of 2015 on the 17th floor of the brand new M by Montcalm hotel located close to Old Street Station, Moorfields Eye Hospital and Silicon Roundabout – around a 10-12 minute walk from the Barbican’s northern fringes.
One has to say this new restaurant certainly has Wow factor with high ceilings, floor to ceiling rectangular windows and trapezoidal windows too creating a space infused with light. Then its attractive internal lighting comes into effect nicely in the evenings. It looks to be designed for the High Tech crowd who supposedly frequent the area, but will have hugely broader appeal too due to the spectacular ambience and great views overlooking east London towards Canary Wharf, the City to the south and the West End to the west. The Old Street area is seeing huge redevelopment changes – both residential and office – which should bode well for a hotel and smart restaurant in the area.
It is always interesting to check out individuals’ reviews on sites like TripAdvisor for a new restaurant, and apart from a couple complaining about poor service when the restaurant had just opened, the reviews were virtually all in the 4 and 5 star category with a number having been there to celebrate family events and obviously thoroughly enjoying the food, ambience and the overall experience. Any service issues seemed to have been fully ironed out. It was also nice to see that a senior member of staff had replied to each and every review whether superlative or adverse. So it was with high hopes that we arrived at 7.30 on a Wednesday evening to try the restaurant out. We weren’t disappointed.
Urban Coterie is spacious, and bright with a spectacular bar area and also hosts a private club. It offers almost Shard type views (but from the north overlooking the City instead of from the south) but with prices probably a few degrees lower than the Shard restaurants – indeed they seemed fairly reasonable for a restaurant of this quality in terms of ambience and gastronomy in the area. OK – it’s only on the 17th floor, but that’s plenty high enough to provide a great all round vista depending on where one is seated.
To start with, approaching the M by Montcalm hotel from Old Street the hotel architecture really stands out – indeed its perspectives are slightly disturbing to the eye. It certainly is a standout building. Had a chance to chat to a hotel guest riding up in the elevator to the 17th floor restaurant and he told me the rooms are superb and rates very good for a London hotel of this quality. It has a pool and a brilliant exercise facility as well as all the mod cons associated with a top hotel.
Arriving at the 17th floor the restaurant is approached via a corridor past a glass panelled and bright private meeting room and then to the Sky Bar which has some spectacular views to the south and west. The Barbican’s towers are much in evidence to the south. This would be a great venue for a drink – and there are bar snacks available. Seating is very comfortable and at the time we were there it was very quiet.
The restaurant itself is a fantastic space. Tables generally are well spaced and those next to the windows are most in demand. The ceiling is really high with some spectacular hanging light fittings and the whole space is delightfully bright and airy. There is an open kitchen at the north end of the restaurant. The space would seat around 80 covers with the current layout, but is spacious enough to seat more if required.
We were seated in a very nice table for 2 in a corner window space giving us views to the south and east – great to see the city light up as dusk descended – and a comforting view of home as represented by the Barbican towers too. Some excellent bread – and some even better butter sprinkled with rock salt was brought automatically – decent bread is always a good sign of things to come. Service was exemplary throughout.
Although the menu is not a large one we dithered over what to order and ended up taking suggestions from the waitress and chose to drink recommended wines by the glass from the sommelier. There are a decent number available – some from a Coravin wine dispensing system.
We shared a starter – Devon crab mayonnaise (£13) – actually the most expensive starter on the menu so the price is not that representative of what else is on offer. (Starters range in price from £6.50). It was delicieux – so much so that I wish we’d ordered one each! Wines chosen to go with it were a Provence Rosé and a white Cotes du Rhone – good choices.
We stayed with fish. I chose a whole lemon sole served with nut brown butter with shrimps and crispy capers (£23) while my colleague went for the fillet of cod on a stew of spring vegetables (£18.50). Be warned though that most dishes come without vegetables and sides are all at £4 or £4.50. We chose a side of spring greens and crispy Anna potatoes to share. The sides are quite small though so certainly wouldn’t work for more than 2 people – and perhaps for only one with a healthy appetite!
Chosen wines were a Touraine white – medium dry and a dryish sauvignon blanc from Luxembourg – an area not exactly known for its wines. Interesting choices but both very acceptable.
For dessert we chose a raspberry soufflé – for which there was a 20 minute wait for it to be prepared. We were warned of this in advance but still decided to go with it. Also a mango sorbet with an exotic fruit salad and a yoghurt mousse. Not sure the soufflé had risen as much as it should have, but it was very pleasant nonetheless, while the sorbet was superb. We both chose brewed decaf coffees to follow and, as one would expect from a restaurant of this class they were excellent.
So as to overall cost – about £77 for the food for two and £30 for the wines by the glass. Definitely not a cheap evening out, but for a restaurant serving classy food in a great ambience with spectacular views, probably not bad at all. By choosing some of the lower cost menu items we could probably have cut it down to around £60 for the food which is about right for the area. There is an extensive – and expensive – wine list with wines by the bottle starting at £20 – but there are only two at that price! For the true connoisseur with deep pockets it includes a Château Mouton Rothschild, 1er Grand Cru Classé Pauillac 1989 for £650. Roll on city bonuses!
At lunch times there’s a Prix fixe menu available – £18.95 for 2 courses or £22.95 for three courses. This menu changes every day but features dishes off the a la carte menu so looks to be excellent value, and on a fine day Urban Coterie would be a brilliant place to be at for a business or leisure lunch. It would even be good on a dull day such is the overall feel of the restaurant.
At weekends a ‘bottomless’ mimosa brunch is served at £32 a head, and apparently this has proved so popular that the restaurant is looking to extend this to Friday lunch times as well.
Urban Coterie is at the M by Montcalm Hotel, 151-157 City Road, London EC1V 1JH – a couple of minutes walk from Old Street Station. It is open Monday to Friday for lunch and dinner, Saturdays for brunch and dinner, Sundays for brunch only. Closed Sunday evenings and Mondays. Call 0203 837 3108 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for reservations. The website is www.urbancoterie.co.uk – but note that because menus change regularly that those shown on the website are not necessarily exactly what is available at the restaurant itself. The wine list at the restaurant is also somewhat different from that on the website – certainly there was a more comprehensive listing of wines available by the glass.
The Anthony Demetre/Searcys/M by Montcalm collaboration has come up with what should be a winning destination restaurant. The setting and views are spectacular and the food is pretty good too! It was fairly quiet at the time of our visit – but in our view it should attract Shard restaurant type level of business – I suspect Searcys and the hotel haven’t yet managed to publicise it to the extent they should have. Highly recommended for the restaurant Wow factor and views with good food and service.
To take it further there is also a members club section on the floor below the restaurant which looks to be a brilliant space for entertaining. Members can entertain up to five guests. However annual membership is £500 and there is a £100 joining fee. It does give some good privileges – like access to the Gherkhin’s private restaurant club space – also a Searcys establishment – and 20% off dining in the Urban Coterie restaurant and 15% off in all Searcys restaurants (including the Barbican’s own Osteria). There’s no room hire charge either for the very attractive private dining room adjacent to the Urban Coterie bar and there are a number of other privileges including guest access to the Centurion golf club near St Albans. There are full details available on the website.