The Shard, all 87 stories and 72 habitable floors of it, is the second tallest building in Europe (after the Mercury City Tower in Moscow). Floors 34-52 are taken up by the Shangri La Hotel, which in April 2013 opened a restaurant called Ting on level 35. The name means "living room" in Chinese and the place duly has a Chinoiserie interior. There is a main dining room and a lounge, the former offering European food, the latter Asian dishes. To confuse things further on the culinary front, there are even some Middle Eastern dishes on the menu. Throw some sushi offerings and a ceviche or two and they would have most of the world covered. Tables were generously spaced, with a lovely view over the Thames from our table. 140 people can be seated in the dining room and lounge combined, and apparently 400 covers are regularly served daily. The head chef is Emil Minev, who has previously cooked at other Shangri La hotels in Tokyo and the Maldives.
Some of the prices are as high as the setting, with hot and sour soup weighing in a hefty £18, fried rice at £15, curry laksa (a Malay dish) at £18. The extensive wine list had a little under 300 labels and ranged in price from £32 right up to Chateau Petrus 1998 at £5,200 (a wine that sells for £2,753 in a shop, so that should generate a tidy cash margin). In general the profit margins on wine were considerably less than might be expected, however. Grüner Veltliner ‘Messwein’ Stift Göttweig 2012 was £32 for a wine that you can find in the high street for £13, Alban Estate Viognier 2012 was £54 for a wine that retails at £36, and Gevrey-Chambertin ‘Clos Prieur’ Domaine Roy 2010 was £110 for a wine that you can find in a shop for £51. Château Pontet-Canet 2006 was £205 for a wine that retails at £87 and Château Montrose 2003 was £345 for a wine that will set you back £180 to buy in a shop. The list was presided over by a friendly female sommelier that used to work at Cut in Park Lane. Bread was from Mortons, and apparently was chosen out of 30 tested; to be honest I am puzzled as to the other 29 that were sampled, as the bread that we tried was rather hard and tasteless (11//20).
Slightly befuddled by the choice, we went mostly for dishes from the European a la carte menu. A starter of crab from Dorset was accompanied by a rather unusual combination of flavours: cucumber spheres, tomato, mango puree and passion fruit coulis, with little crisps. This rather odd blend of flavours worked well enough together in practice, the crab itself of good quality (13/20).
Better was a pair of diver-caught scallops with ginger, coriander, mandarin and heritage carrots. The flavours here were more coherent, but the key to the success of the dish were the genuinely good scallops, inherently sweet and lightly cooked (14/20).
We tried one dish from the Asian menu, and wished we hadn’t. Nasi goreng, if you eat it in Malaysia, is a hearty stir-fried rice dish with bold spices, but here was just under-seasoned fried rice. It was better when some salt was added, but the expected vibrant flavours of ginger and chillies were missing in action (11/20 if I am to be kind).
Cotswold free-range chicken was cooked correctly though it did not have much flavour. It was served with celeriac, savoy cabbage, and apricot puree and lightly flavoured with tea, seemingly to add a smoky note. This was sufficiently subtle that it eluded me (12/20). A side salad that was ordered transformed into a side dish of mixed vegetables on delivery, and these were fine, with tender mange tout for example. Matchstick fries were also reasonably crisp (13/20 for the vegetables).
The desserts brought the meal back on track. Yuzu cheesecake was very good, the texture nice and the Asian citrus bringing some welcome freshness to the dish (13/20). Dark chocolate dessert came with griottes (wid cherries), pistachio sponge and vanilla ice cream. I am not sure that the modern technique was the best way to show off the pistachios, but the ice cream was fine and the chocolate very good indeed (13/20). Coffee was Musetti and was drinkable.
Service was friendly and generally effective. The only quibble I would have was with the wine topping up. I do not mind topping up my own wine at all but if, as here, the wine is placed out of reach, then the waiting staff really need to be capable of spotting an empty glass, which they failed to do tonight on three separate occasions. Restaurateurs - just leave the bottle on the table if you are not going to invest in the level of staff training needed. The bill came to £64 a head, which was not excessive given the pleasant food and the spectacular view. If you shared a modest bottle of wine then a typical bill for three courses might be around £80 a head. There was a three course set lunch menu at £30, and to put this into context a ticket to the Shard viewing gallery costs £25.