2-8 Great Suffolk Street, London, SE1 0UG www.oxbobankside.co.uk
Jars of sweets as part of Sunday lunchÃ¢â‚¬Â¦ Tracy finds out that childhood fantasies can come true.
Bankside is becoming quite the destination when you want good food without a formal environment Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or a crippling price tag (Jessie J may think it’s not about the money, but I think you’ll find we know better).
The location is home to pub-like restaurants by the likes of Mark Hix and Gordon Ramsay and now Oxbo Bankside is set to fit right in. Housed in the latest Hilton Hotel (which opened late last year), chef Paul Bates has devised a menu that is both reassuringly familiar with a comforting feel yet with delicious modern updates of dishes.
The backdrop at first looks like a more homely version of contemporary dÃƒÂ©cor Ã¢â‚¬â€œ think exposed brick, wood panels, oversized metal lampshades and comfy seating in the form of both chairs and banquettes. But look a little closer and there’s the graffiti-style mural on the brick wall, and the paper mache animal heads.Before you get squeamish, the text on the ear of the zebra that proclaims’the grass is always greener’ or a glimpse of the cigarette between the camel’s lips makes it clear that these animals would, if they could, have their tongues firmly stuck in their cheeks.
The menu focuses on fresh British produce, no doubt inspired Ã¢â‚¬â€œ and helped Ã¢â‚¬â€œ by Borough Market, which is literally down the road. We were there on a Sunday lunch and had a choice of the OXBO Roast, a three-course meal (£28), or the Bottomless Sunday Roast, which also includes three courses, as well as unlimited Prosecco for two hours.
You begin your meal with a visit to the Traders Starters Table for a help-yourself-to-whatever-you-fancy first course. Admittedly, I’m not usually a fan of any buffet-style eating Ã¢â‚¬â€œ those tables that stretch on forever and which might offer a huge variety, but which inevitably lack any standout dishes or flavours. But the round table put paid to that idea, as did the mouthwatering selection.
Whether you’re after wonderfully fresh sashimi (with wasabi, seaweed, ginger), or prefer your salmon smoked, you would be in luck. If you fancy a bit of palate-cleansing ceviche, there was halibut, salmon and prawns in’tiger’s milk’; the Peruvian citrus-based marinade, which is believed by some to be both a hangover cure (I’d only had a glass of Prosecco by then) and an aphrodisiac (I couldn’t possibly say). Or if crab is more your thing, it came topped with baby prawns and a mustardy sauce.
Not a fish lover? No problem with the mini coronation-inspired chicken with coconut and mango, Iberico chorizo, Oxsprings English prosciutto, beef pastrami, and smoked duck breast with lychee salsa that was a simple yet very pleasing mouthful of smokiness and sweetness.
What I also liked was the variety of condiments such as capers, lemon wedges, horseradish, soy, salsa and mustard and dill sauces for you to distribute over dishes as you saw fit. Along with the salads, which ranged from green to mixed, potato and pasta, it would be difficult not to find something you loved in the range and, enjoyed with the warm, fresh-from-the-oven rolls and butter, it’s a good start to a leisurely laid-back lunch.
Mains are selected from a small but catering-for-all a la carte menu Ã¢â‚¬â€œ on the day we visited it featured Forerib of Casterbridge Beef and Josper grilled corn fed chicken (both served with roast potatoes and gravy); Grilled Grimsby cod, and Thanet Cauliflower, broccoli and lentil dhal with sweet potato and garlic flatbread.
We both opted for the beef, which came with seasonal vegetables and a large Yorkshire pudding. The beef came in large, rare slices Ã¢â‚¬â€œ the sort that’s a nightmare to slice into if the meat’s of poor quality, but there was no such dilemma, as it was so soft to cut and as good as it looked on the plate, it delivered on full-flavoured taste. If I’m being very picky, I could have done with a little more of the gravy.
The Traders Dessert Table offered a fun and enticing array of puds. Mini versions of favourites such as chocolate almond torte (topped with gold-coloured popcorn, which looked quite pretty but, being a little soft, didn’t add much, although it also didn’t detract from the chocolaty decadence of the torte), Bakewell tart, baked cheesecake (I’m not usually a fan, but this was delicious, perhaps because it was so, so creamy and just a couple of mouthfuls), lemon meringue pies, and strawberry crÃƒÂ¨me brÃƒÂ»lÃƒÂ©es.
These sat alongside cookies (I’d usually say biscuits, but these looked more like those still-soft in the middle American ones with nutty, chocolate and chocolate-filled options), and jars of sweets such as Flying Saucers, jelly snakes, Fried Eggs, Dolly Mixture and lollipops that will appeal to your inner child, I found, even if you’re not really a sweet lover.
The meal, coupled with friendly and efficient service, was a very pleasing one enjoyed in front of the open kitchen, which adds a touch of theatre to the dining experience while also providing the opportunity to interact with the chefs and find out more about the food.
OXBO Bankside is the sort of place where you can imagine meeting friends for lunch and finding yourselves still there come dinner time Ã¢â‚¬â€œ by which time the cravings for those jars of sweets might just have kicked in.