I’m always a little dubious when it comes to hotel bars and eateries. Cut off from the buzz of the surrounding streets, more often than not they’re dead inside. I once went to review a Chinese restaurant in a hotel south of the river, where diners basically ate in a glorified conference centre. The only decoration was a few sad-looking red lanterns suspended from the ceiling. The worst part was that the food was actually quite good, but having to dine in such a soulless environment sucked the joy out of the experience. It was the dementor of dinners.
And so, I was equally dubious about Tonic & Remedy, the in-house bar and restaurant at M by Montcalm in Shoreditch. A mass of concrete and glass, the hotel is an unmissable man-made iceberg on City Road. When we arrive for dinner, it’s busy and buzzing on both floors. Upstairs, on the mezzanine floor, is the main apothecary-themed bar, where head barman and mixologist extraordinaire Jeremy Pascal works his magic.
The theme is, admittedly, a little odd for its settings – old-world pharmaceutical paraphernalia should feel out of place in the hotel’s modern aesthetic. But the interiors have been cleverly designed to synthesise the two. A concrete topped bar and zinc shelving, for example, add an urban edge, creating what can only be described as an apothecary Shoreditch-style.
On these shelves are bottles of all shapes and sizes, each containing a different ingredient for Pascal’s concoctions. The cocktail menu is broken down into relievers, remedies, potions and libations, all of which channel spicy, herb-infused flavours. Expect to see plenty of thyme, parsley, rosemary and black pepper, as well as quirky extras like the Angostura Bitters candyfloss. Don’t miss the Lady Marmalade, made with Absolut blue vodka, Cointreau, orange bitters, homemade grapefruit marmalade, Campari and Champagne – a refreshingly zesty summer tipple.
That’s the best thing about this place. All the menus here are full of things that you’d actually want to try. At our marble table overlooking the bustling City Road, we peruse the menu made up of snacks, majors and minors. These minors, aka starters, range from the succulent octopus, black rice saffron and lemon to the meaty chicken liver parfait with rhubarb chutney and toasted brioche. We also tried the heritage beets with smoked curbs, seeds and grains – the perfect combination of smooth creaminess and tasty crunch – and the broken Oxford blue, pear and walnut that proved to be a pleasing twist on the classic Waldorf salad.
As for the majors, my roast duck breast, crispy leg and nectarine, accompanied by sides of creamed potato and purple sprouting broccoli with hazelnuts, was the perfect balance of sweet and savoury. The sides were needed though – the duck dish is too meat heavy and so the flavour can become overwhelming without their accompaniment. But they’re worth ordering anyway – the creamed potato was worryingly moorish. Meanwhile, my date’s light and seasonal sea trout, Jersey royals, asparagus and watercress was exactly what you’d want on a warm summer evening.
We’re far too full for dessert, but the ‘Sweet Bites’ look too good to miss. The apricot and pistachio roulade was tempting, but we finally decide on the elderflower and lime drizzle cake – a small, glazed cake accompanied with stewed blueberries and elderflower sorbet. The cake looked a little stodgy, but once you pierced the exterior was actually wonderfully light. All in all a pleasant surprise – a pretty good metaphor for Tonic & Remedy as a whole then.
Tonic & Remedy, 151- 157 City Road, London, EC1V 1JH. For more information, including news and events and details of their menus, visit tonicandremedy.co.uk.