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|Address:||1 Bank End, London SE1 9BU|
|Tel:||020 7940 8333|
|Price: £46.00||Wine: £20.00||Champagne: £45.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Wed 6-11pm Thurs-Sat 12N-11.30pm (Thurs -3pm)|
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Being no stranger to the railways arches of wine supremo, Vinopolis, it surprised even me that I’ve never paid a visit to its restaurant, Cantina Vinopolis. The Blue Bar and wine museum are a wonderful way to spend any afternoon or evening and I’ve withered away many hours there sipping over-priced Chablis and ordering hefty bottles of ripe Italian plonk. And just as you raise that glass to your quivering lips for that burst of potent grape juice… rumberling interference disrupts as trains depart above and bang and rattle and thump their way across the tracks.
The restaurant is tucked away to the side of the building parallel to Bank St. and offers modern European grub served simply and cleanly. The setting is smart and casual, fine for business lunches and evening romancing. The light, wooden tables, polished glasses and shining cutlery give it an easy contemporary feel and there’s an open kitchen for those bored enough with their company to nosey in on. As expected there’s a good wine list to study but they’re clever not to put the emphasis entirely on the alcohol and offer some tasty dishes too.
My spiced grilled squid with tomatoes and Spanish chorizo (better than the Portuguese?) was served with an olive salsa and fused two of my favourite ingredients (squid and chorizo), therefore I enjoyed it thoroughly, however I’m not convinced that the soft, rubbery texture of chewy squid can accompany the distinctive smokiness and peppery characters of cubed chorizo. And at £7.75 this was an expensive beginning. Perhaps the subdued lighting is a deliberate effect to mask the prices?
My friend Vanessa had the salmon supreme which is probably the worst named dish ever? “Supreme” just sounds like something that’s trying to be special. American lingo for crowning glory. So the ‘Supreme’ salmon – although it looked like any other salmon to me – was served with spring onion mash, cherry tomatoes and a chive cream sauce. She mopped it up sharpish, so supreme or not there was something special about it. A £16.50 price tag makes it pretty “special”.
On to more corpulent dishes and my rump of lamb (now “rump” is a far better adjective) with dauphinoise potatoes, spinach and lamb jus. The lamb was served medium-rare with good flavour, and was tender to cut and silky to eat. Very good. The spinach lay lifeless and wilted however, but wasn’t enough to overthrow the dish. And still change from twenty-bob, well £1.75 – you do the maths.
It was a task selecting from the wine list: what do you feel like? What’s well-priced? What’ll suit the lamb, but not ‘Salmon Supreme’, and so on… a bottle of Merlot (La Galinière ’08) under twenty-pounds did the trick. It’s a fruity Merlot with hints of spice, described on their website as, “Sporting excellent depth, this fruit-forward effort is a great inexpensive Merlot with loads of character.”
Service was fine; our young waiter was patient and punctual and cannot be faulted. Looking back we should have perhaps tested him on the wines, but then who’s fooling who, like art, I don’t know much but know what I like. The banana sticky toffee pudding was served with vanilla ice-cream and a sweet dripping butterscotch sauce, and was well-priced at £6.50. After a spicy starter, a meaty rich main and a bottle packing a rather voracious fruity punch, this was enough to even bring Jay Rayner to his knees, spongy toffee sticking to my teeth and a warm butterscotch sauce meddling with the expanding contents of my stomach. Belch!
Vanessa’s raspberry shortcake was dainty and clean and all very ‘female portion’ in its size, therefore not worth my consideration, plus I neither enjoy nor feel at any time like ruining a shortcake with crème friache overload. The shortcake was also £6.50.