Newest Review: ... our cocktails before we went to be shown to our table. more
Good food? You can bank on it!
Member Name: sarajackson
Date: 06/06/03, updated on 06/06/03 (59 review reads)
Advantages: Great Cocktails, Stylish unpretentious surroundings, Good service
Disadvantages: None, None, None
We had initially sought out Bank Restaurant a couple of years ago, after it was recommended in one of Rick Stein's books. At the time there was one branch in London, on Aldwych (there is now one in Westminster too plus a branch in Birmingham). It occupies a spot near the corner of Kingsway, and I remember being struck by the extremely casual appearance of the brightly coloured formica topped tables. We didn't manage a visit on that occasion but during a recent trip, despite the informal appearance, we decided to visit. We had been spurred on to visit after having read the menu that appeared very appealing on their really helpful website (www.bankrestaurant.co.uk). We had been more than impressed by Fish!, another restaurant venture of one of the proprietors, Tony Allen, and this spurred us on to visit his slightly more upmarket restaurant.
We entered through the business like revolving door, and were greeted by the ultra efficient Maitre D' who took our coats, while we went into the bar. The front area (which I only realised on this occasion was just a bar and constituted a small part of the restaurant) is in full view of passers by, and had a large cocktail bar with seating around as well as tables and chairs. We took a seat and began the mammoth task of choosing from the lengthy cocktail menu. I never complain about a long cocktail menu though. It was a great selection, the majority being classic cocktails, many martini versions, a handful of Bank signature cocktails and none of the naff holiday type cocktails such as Harvey Wallbanger and Tequila Sunrises! My husband chose a classic vodka martini and I picked the Bank cocktail, a champagne cocktail with grenadine. These were painstakingly prepared, were generous measures and were fantastic. I find cocktails fall into 3 categories - disappointing, good and brilliant. These were the latter. We really savoured our cocktails before we went to be shown to our table. r>
The actual restaurant at the rear of the building, was extremely large and was more elegant than the casual bar implied. The large area had tables spaced well apart and although it was bright and modern, it still managed to have a fairly intimate atmosphere, and you weren't particularly aware of the other diners around you. The décor is set off by lots of sparkling glass and the whole space matches perfectly the modern touch of the dishes on the menu - contemporary without the obsession with being trendy. The menu is what I would call a proper restaurant menu, consisting of classic dishes with a modern touch. The menu was large and consisted of probably 15 starters and around 20 main courses. For starter, there were classics such as Smoked Salmon, Vegetarian options of risotto, tarts, salads and pasta, and a big emphasis on fish and seafood. For main courses, again there was the option of pasta, a lot of fish dishes, and a good variety of meat and poultry dishes, all with modern influences and interesting accompaniments.
The Waiter who served us was extremely professional, friendly enough with being overbearing. Similarly the pace of service was well judged and suited us. We ordered a bottle of water and were left for just the right amount of time before our orders were taken. We also ordered a bottle of Mission Hill Pinot Blanc from the interesting wine list. This contained a number of very reasonably priced wines, our choice costing around £20. The wine list was one of the reasons that we were spurred on to visit Bank. Being Canadian Wine fans, it was the first wine list we noticed in the UK that offered any. Since then we have noticed two more restaurants (Hadrians in the Balmoral Hotel and Livebait in New Fetter Lane in London, who also have the Mission Hill) so obviously some wine merchant is pushing the stuff - and at last the drought is over!!.
Ours starters arrived fairly swiftly. I had I decided upon the Beef Tom
ato and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad with Aged Balsamic, which is a frequent choice of mine. I think this is the best I have had so far, the mozzarella being moist and flavoursome, and the other ingredients tasty. Unlike is often the case, the restaurant hadn't been tempted to add superfluous additions like pesto, too much olive oil, or drown the dish in balsamic vinegar. Everything was done with a very careful measured approach, resulting in a surprisingly good simple dish. My husband had ordered the Red Onion and Goats Cheese Tart Tatin, which wasn't as huge or stodgy as it might have been.
For main course, I picked the Roast Corn Fed Chicken, with Morel Mousse and Asparagus and Truffle Linguine. The flavours of this dish were perfect. The chicken cooked exactly right, tender and flavoursome. The mousse added more juiciness to the dish and the linguine which happily was not overpowered by the asparagus and truffle, was again cooked perfectly. The dish was just the right size, not being too much of a plateful, but not requiring any side orders in addition. The quality of the chicken combined with the careful pairings of flavours resulted in a really great restaurant dish. This sort of dish I think could transcend all types of restaurant, from fine dining to a casual bistro, and similarly would be an equally suitable choice for either a summer or winter dish. Great! My husband's main course, Rump of Lamb, Roast Provencale Vegetables with Black Olive and Thyme Jus, was again perfectly cooked, and a good combination of flavours and textures. All the dishes were also well presented. It appeared that the extremely interesting and appealing menu in this instance had been a sign of good things to come, as opposed to the usual case of an appetising menu resulting in an anti-climax when the food arrives!
We decided to finish the wine, before we made a decision on the dessert menu. Unlike many other restaurants, we weren't constan
tly bothered until we made
a decision, and it was nice to relax in what are very nice surroundings. After a while, we ordered desserts, Pistachio Ice Cream for me and Sticky Toffee Pudding for my husband. The restaurant also offers Mission Hill Riesling Ice Wine, a first as far as I know. We had been looking forward to this all night, having withdrawal symptoms since we finished the last of the bottle we brought home from Canada last time! The ice cream was really tasty, and not at all like some pistachio ice creams I have had that have nearly been luminous in colour. The flavours were subtle, and just the right refreshing end to the really good meal I had just had. My husband said his toffee pudding was really good, and not at all sickly, that is almost always the case. I think this is the key to Bank. The dishes have potential to be too much, too stodgy, too rich, too colourful .... but in the end the execution is so precise and careful, what you end up with as near to perfection as you could find. Considering Bank is not fine dining, and makes no great promises, it is one of the few meals I have had that all three courses have been equally enjoyable, and that after the evening, there would not be one thing I would choose differently. Add to that the bold choice of wines, and hurrah, success!
The total cost of the meal, including cocktails, wine, water, two glasses of ice wine and 3 courses was just under £120 including service. I think this compares really favourably to other similar restaurants, and I would have no hesitation going back whenever I am in London.