There’s a lot to like about Northbank Restaurant, not least it’s superb location on the bank of the River Thames, steps away from St Paul’s and the Millennium Bridge and with a view across to the Tate Modern. The restaurant is spacious and elegant, tables are not too close together for a private conversation and the bar area has a very lovely outdoor terrace, though it was booked by a private party on the date of our visit.
The menu is “modern British”; the produce British too, with a preference for Cornish that befits owner Christian Butler’s home county. The kitchen is lead by head chef Jason Marchant, who shares Butler’s focus on supporting local British producers.
Window tables are in demand, though be warned that in winter you’ll feel the cold when tucked up against the huge sheets of glass. The outlook onto the river and central London skyline are gorgeous though, so wear your thermals and book for the view!
Marchant has just launched a tasting menu, 6 courses for £55 or 7 for £60, and plans to create a new menu every month. The dishes below are March’s offering, so keep an eye on the website to find out what’s to come.
There is currently no matching wine flight available which is I think is missing a trick, but Northbank’s wine list is very affordable – surprisingly so for central London – with many wines available by the glass. Pete enjoys a white Candidato from Viura, Spain and a red Mon Roc (merlot and cabernet blend) from France, both keenly priced at just £18 a bottle.
The soft drinks list is a let down, with a couple of juices and the regular sodas, it’s crying out for some extra effort. The manager was more than willing to create a non-alcoholic cocktail of my choosing, but I’d like to see non-alcohol drinkers given some attention on the drinks list, rather than leaving it to us to venture off-menu.
First, an amuse bouche served in a little espresso cup – Carrot and Honey Soup with a drop of olive oil. This was a punchy little soup, packed full of flavour and very intense – perfect to wake up the palate, ready for the dishes to follow.
Bread, served warm, was uniformly soft with no crunch of a crust at all; oddly reminiscent of airline bread though not unpleasant.
Truffle Chicken Tortellini with Spinach Purée and Truffle Cream was a mixed dish. There was really no texture of chicken detectable in the filling at all but the flavour of the filling was still good, as is was the rich truffle cream served alongside. I didn’t like the spinach puree (which you can just spot behind the tortellini, obscured by the pile of salad); indeed I felt its flavour clashed with the truffle and wondered if peppery watercress might fare better? For me frizzy pile of salad piled on top was not attractive, didn’t add at all to the eating experience and almost completely obscured the slices of truffle draped over the tortellini.
From there on in, however, the meal was markedly better. Seared West Country Scallops with Burnt Leek, Celeriac, Sea Purslane was a super, stand out dish. I loved the brioche crumb with nori and capers, I loved the celeriac puree and I adored that charred burnt leek – and all of it went fabulously well with the scallops. I couldn’t pick up the taste of the sea purslane leaves, perhaps only one tiny leaf per scallop isn’t quite enough for the taste to come through? But this was a great dish.
Next up was Rabbit Mulligatawny, another of our favourite dishes of the menu. This dish had a really robust flavour – beautifully tender rabbit (with none of the dryness that is common in rabbit dishes), cooked in a vibrant sauce with a touch of heat to it and garnished with crisp, deep-fried kale. Another really excellent dish.
Given how much of a flavour punch this packed, I think it may have worked better after rather than before the halibut, even given the meaty nature of that fish.
Panfried halibut was served with mashed potato, charred kale and nasturtium leaves, with a dark red wine sauce. The fish itself was cooked beautifully, firm yet succulent and very fresh indeed. The charred kale was good with it, the flavour from the char adding a hint of bitterness. But the mash was unforgivably grainy and the sauce was oddly sweet and sour. Friends who dined here the night before us absolutely loved this dish but neither Pete nor I liked the sauce much at all and I’m wondering whether there was an inconsistency in flavours from one day to the next? A good dish, but not as strong for us as the two courses preceding.
Roasted Rump of Cornish Lamb, Potato Terrine, Shallot Purée & Salt Baked Beetroot was a generous plate of excellent quality lamb with a very subtly flavoured fruit bread crumb. The beetroot was super salty, but balanced by the sweetness of the shallot and that potato terrine was a thing of beauty! A good solid dish.
For dessert there’s a choice of two, so we each chose one and shared both. First up the Lemon Meringue Plate, a deconstruction that worked well enough with lemon curd, lemon sorbet, meringue and a sprinkle of crumble. Good clean flavours and textures, this worked well.
The menu listed this as Cocoa and Chocolate, though we were told on serving that it was a chocolate and hazelnut praline dish. The mousse was excellent in texture and taste, with a really rich dark chocolate flavour that is often missing from restaurant chocolate desserts. The chocolate crumb around had shards of hazelnut brittle, more caramel than hazelnut but still added a nice crunch.
We were told this West Country Cheese Board (£5 supplement) was a serving for one, but it was such a generous portion, plenty for two after the previous courses. Featuring Yarg, Golden Cross Goat, Devon Blue and Stinking Bishop; the only weak cheese for me was the Devon Blue which I found bitter and rather lacking in complexity of flavour; the others were perfectly tasty cheeses. The fig chutney was a perfect blend of sweet, savoury and spicy. Toasts (the same fruit bread that featured in the lamb dish) and crackers were decent. Fresh apple was crisp and sweet. But the grapes were far too ripe, so squishy it was hard to pull them from the stem.
The main negative for me about Northbank Restaurant is how dark it is. Really dark. Dark enough that we were not the only guests using mobile phones as torches in order to read the menu; as far as I’m concerned, that low a level of lighting is better suited to a nightclub than a restaurant and a step too far in the name of moody and atmospheric. If you’re thinking that my images don’t look that dark, be aware that I’ve pulled the exposure significantly in processing – the reason for the level of noise grain in the images. Call me old-fashioned but I really like to be able to see what I’m eating!
Despite my little nit-picks, the meal overall was very enjoyable and the £55/£60 price point is excellent value given the location and quality of ingredients. I think Marchant’s tasting menu is definitely one to keep an eye on, and shall certainly look out for his new menu each month.
Kavey Eats dined as guests of Northbank Restaurant.