Not a debaucherous decadence that an underground London night brings, but rather the suave, indulgent kind, rising 12 floors up from the City of London scene below. Savage Garden is atop the Hilton DoubleTree and named after a quiet side street all those levels below. The rooftop bar certainly embellishes an otherwise drab building. And this isn’t a slight; it’s surely better to be looking out at the incredible architecture of Ten Trinity Square, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge than vice versa. And Savage Garden itself is attractive. There are two terraces – the alternative view is over towards St Pauls, the Gherkin and The Shard – either side of the glass panorama bar with a luxurious interior. After the sun has gone down and the cityscape outside changes is when the interior of Savage Garden really gets to impress. The bar itself is opulent, the glassware and purple marble design lit up with orange light. It’s no doubt a place where the well heeled from the city streets beneath will want to kick back. And it’s not often you find good drinks in a new urban bar with these views on offer.
Food isn’t really the main event at Savage Garden with the tall cocktail tables, dynamic atmosphere and loud music, but the menu is far from boring and will not leave you disappointed. There’s a huge array of dishes, mostly bold and flavourful options. Perfect for a cocktail session on a Friday evening if you haven’t eaten before. The menu is split into Addictives, Big Teases, Small Wonders, Hunger Unleashed and Feasting Savagery. Confused, we took direction again and were advised not to miss the beef short ribs. And Thank God. The meat was so incredibly soft, falling from the bone using just your fork and melting in the mouth. Goats cheese, pea and tarragon croquettes were also a hit but not as much as the roasted cauliflower with labne, zhoug, chilli-roasted ancient grains and ‘craisins’. Our table wasn’t big enough… We had the honey-miso aubergine sliders and a rather elaborately designed crispy squid on sticks – very tall sticks with the awkward purpose of drawing the attention of other tables to show off the alien tentacles. It worked; I’m sure I saw a few people address the menu or add an order to the returning waiter. The dishes got heftier than this – like with the pork tomahawk with black pudding fries – but there were the slightly lighter options of burrata and charred octopus, as well. This isn’t so much a dessert kind of place, but there are the speciality donuts that come highly recommended. Warmed, small, sweet dough balls are served in a basket with syringes filled with strawberry jam and salted caramel for injecting ourselves. Not exactly my thing but fitting in Savage Garden style, and a highlight of the meal for my date.
On a grey, rainy spring day Savage Garden was the perfect spot for a smart Friday evening. Not only for watching the outside gloom and architectural beauty through glass walls from luxurious comfort, but also for watching the first dates and after-work drinks within. Me and my pal had the set up just right for an evening at Savage Garden – an intimate catch up in a loud and energetic atmosphere. Savage Garden is best for its cocktails. I always choose one of two cocktail classics to start, a dirty vodka martini or margarita, as my initial test of a bar. Despite the miserable day it is the start of summer so I choose the tequila drink served over ice. It was sharp, the sour much outweighing the sweet – thank goodness no pre-mix here – and beautifully served with lime, leaves and a salt rim. During this first drink the bar was becoming quickly more lively – it was around 8pm so time for another cocktail and to order some food. While I can eat and enjoy most anything, when it comes to experimenting with cocktails I’m hardly an easy customer; fruity long drinks aren’t for me, nor those with more than four-five ingredients and I can’t remember an ‘innovative’ house signature I’d go back for. The classics have been long discovered and thus perfected. Now, the cocktail list at Savage Garden is full of inventive, exciting names and recipes so if you like exploring new drinks, this is your place. With help from the patient and knowledgeable waiter, we landed on a Penicillin which, like the first, was a beautifully made cocktail that went down very well. After tequila and whisky, though, it was time to reign it in, especially with all the rich plates on order, and decided to switch to wine. Albarino is a current favourite, and thought the bottle on offer wasn’t the best or freshest Albariño I’ve had, it was good enough for us to have ordered a few bottles by the end of the night.
We left before midnight, just as the bar was ramping up a gear to another, more glamorous session. It was refreshing to be out of (and above) the usual scene, especially on a Friday night. We are spoilt for choice in London with excellent cocktail bars, chic settings and sophisticated atmospheres in which to indulge. Savage Garden offers more perks than most with its insanely good views, to be enjoyed with a fantastic cocktail. The slick and friendly service really made the evening.
DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London – Tower of London
7 Pepys Street