Nick heads out of London to find a restaurant that delivers class and value
Growing up in South London, Chislehurst was always famous to me for its caves. The tunnels and caverns cover at least twenty two square miles and were carved out over hundreds of years. ‘Led Zeppelin once had a party down here,’ said our guide. ‘Who was he?’ said me.
People in the food business certainly know who Stuart Gillies is. He was CEO of The Gordon Ramsay Group for seven years, a job which must have been demanding to say the least. He and his wife opened Bank House in Chislehurst and then Number Eight in Sevenoaks a few years later.
As we rush inside from the pounding rain we only get to glimpse the exterior, but its origins are unmistakable. Once upon a time all Victorian High Street banks looked like this, designed to be both grandly important and locally reassuring, ‘Your money is safe with us’.
Inside it has no obvious trace of its past, although perhaps the wood block floor is original, and later I see the bank vaults, massive steel constructions one of which is now the wine cellar ‘Your wine is safe with us’.
It’s a softly furnished, cheerful, cosy and welcoming place, the clientele all rather well-heeled. Chislehurst is only thirty minutes from London Bridge after all, and all around are houses verging on the enormous. Downstairs at Bank is the wine bar, while upstairs where once Mr Mainwaring lectured you about your overdraft is the main restaurant.
We eat downstairs tonight, it’s midweek so the restaurant is not being used, this suits us as there’s a good buzz here and the place is filling up.
Munching salt and vinegar popcorn, why has no one thought of this before, we bounce undecidedly from the set menu to a la carte. The set menu is £22.95 for three courses, which is great value. The a la carte is barely more expensive.
A plate of Padron peppers well-blistered amuses us; lime and salt is a smart addition, but sadly none of them are hot. I find this more and more with Padron Russian Roulette, the revolver has no bullets.
Starters proper arrive, after a bit of a delay. BBQ Buttermilk Chicken with a side of Blue Cheese Sauce is rather heavy on the sweet BBQ sauce, but many people will be happy with that. It lacks a bit of crunch, and the buttermilk is rather sharp, but the chicken is good. Probably thigh meat which is always better than breast. I like the blue cheese sauce, which cuts the sweetness well, as does the dusting of crisp spring onion.
P is having Tempura Tiger Prawns, Harrisa Mayo, Coriander Cress. These are very good prawns, plump and sweet, and the tempura is fresh and crisp, although a bit too smooth. Tempura should be more lumpy, the flour barely stirred in. Lovely mayo, although it seems to me to be more sriracha than harissa, not that there’s anything wrong with that. Both dishes come in substantial portions, proving that we are not in London. Less is not more, I prefer more.
The young staff are eager to please and we’re pleased with some decent glasses of their recommended red, as I’m driving it’s all I can have, no cocktails for me tonight.
For some reason I want to go veggie so it’s Pumpkin and Sage Tortellini, Wild Mushrooms, Jerusalem Artichokes for my mains. It’s all a bit brown when it arrives, it would be better if it was white, brown is not appetising. The tortellini pasta is well made, avoiding the leatheriness that comes when it’s overworked, and thin enough to not dominate, but not so thin the parcels fall apart.
The filling could do with some more seasoning, it’s slightly bland, but the chestnut sweetness of the pumpkin is still there. A couple of the mushrooms are a bit fibrous, but overall it’s a good sauce for the pasta, very autumnal. The artichokes are to work their special brand of magic on me well until the small hours.
Not often seen on menus, the fillet of Pink Dorade comes with steamed broccoli and a scallop and prawn sauce. This looks good on the plate, highly edible, and the fish is excellent with the rich and creamy sauce. A big shout out to the side of chips , which are the best I’ve had for a while, a good size chip, not silly big, and crisp outside while fluffy inside.
All that remains to do is dessert and, since I am having fond childhood memories, bread and butter pudding calls to me. Obviously it’s not as perfect as my mum’s, what could ever be, but it’s good and eggy. I’d have liked a few badly burnt bits on top, and some shrivelled currants too, but that was my mother’s recipe and not really restaurant worthy.
So you can bank on Bank. Good cooking, good price and while you’re in the area, have a look at those caves. Tell them Led sent you.
No photos were taken during the review. Images are from Bank.
Sunday roast and brunch menu is available at weekends and a kids’ menu is available all week.
11 High Street, Chislehurst BR7 5AB