Sunday, 20 January 2008
northbank restaurant, London - a review
And so it was that, together with a couple of others, I pitched up with keen expectation on Saturday to the Northbank restaurant on – you guessed it – the North bank of the Thames. It really does have a prime spot to die for if you’re a restaurant owner. It’s right by the Millenium Bridge - just across the water from the Tate Modern, Shakespeare’s Globe, and that sacred foodie mecca, Borough Market.
A good location, however, does not a great restaurant make. Could it live up to its setting and the hype? Weee-eeeelllll.... Here’s how it went – judge for yourself.
We arrived at 1.30pm, and ordered after about 10 minutes. So far, so good. My two fellow diners both opted for starters, whereas I (having already eyed up the desserts) chose to wait for my main course.
Some 45 minutes later, the starters arrived. Now, tell me if I’m being picky here – but I’m not altogether sure how a bowl of steamed mussels with cider and bacon and a plate of devilled kidneys take 45 minutes to cook. Were they worth the wait? Well, the mussels were pronounced to be ‘fine’, and the kidneys ‘nice, but very spicy’. A lukewarm start, then.
Our mains arrived a further half an hour later. That’s right. Another half an hour. So from arriving to getting my food, I waited an hour and a half. Wah! My blood sugar level had almost dropped off the edge of the scale, and my mood perhaps wasn’t the sunniest it’s ever been. Even a nice view over the river couldn’t distract me any longer from my howling hunger.
We had to wait for what felt like another age to order our puddings, although once we'd done so, they didn’t take too long in coming. We sampled two – a custard and date tart, and a sticky toffee pudding. Duty called, you see.
Overall, then, good without being particularly stunning. The waiting undoubtedly took the shine off the experience, as did the service, which was rather nervy and lacked polish. The wines (from a very impressive list) passed the taste test with no problem, but were under-chilled.
Total bill, £102 for the three of us. That’s for 2 starters, 3 mains (+ 1 side of potatoes), 2 desserts, 2 bottles of water, 2 glasses of wine (we were, regrettably, all recovering from various ailments), and 2 coffees. Not bad for London, but it didn't exactly scream ‘great value’ at me.
Personally, I wouldn’t rush to go back – not at the weekend, anyway. It felt like we had a front of house B-team, and possibly a similar situation in the kitchen, too. Maybe the weekdays are different – I’d expect it to be filled with City types at lunchtimes, and for the service to be distinctly slicker and quicker. If it isn’t, I can't see Northbank surviving.
The food is good, and there’s no doubt that it’s competently cooked – but all of us agreed that, based on this visit at least, it lacked real ‘wow’. It certainly didn’t match the reviews in the press.
It is a great venue, though – so if you’re looking for somewhere by the river to pass the time over a glass of vino in the summer, this could well be the place. There’s a bar menu, too – well priced, with most dishes at the £6.50/£7.50 mark – so that might just be worth a try.
You never know, you might even see me there... or not.