"Exciting menu let let down by high prices and some lack of attention to detail"Review Rating: Reviewed by All In London
Just a five minute cab journey from Clapham Junction, but it did feel as though we were very much off the beaten track when we found the entrance slightly hidden from view tucked away in the hotel Rafayel complex.
My first impression was that made by the cupcake display in the entrance, which made an unusual piece of artwork, but in this case was actually an advertisement for the MyChelle’s Baketique that also finds its home in the hotel. My second was of the warm and genuine greeting we received on arrival from the hostess.
On a Wednesday night, and still early days in the life of Banyan on Thames, the restaurant was relatively quiet. It was 19.30 in May and therefore still light outside, but the restaurant’s lighting was a little confused; was it daytime or night-time? It felt rather cold both in terms of temperature and lighting which rather spoilt what had been positive first impressions otherwise. The fake candles didn't help! The long and elegant bar, sleek and modern lines and most stunning view over the Thames compensated though.
We started on the cocktail menu which was good though not extensive; all the classics were there and I chose a Caipirinha whilst my companion had a Tom Collins. The caipirinha seemed to have been made using sugar syrup rather than the crushed brown sugar of the original and lacked a bit of a kick, but was tasty enough. The Tom Collins I was told, also lacked real punch and was served with so much ice that it took away from the flavours that were there – a bit of a disappointment.
We were taken to our table and perused the menu. From the interesting selection of British, modern European and Indian dishes on offer, I chose a starter of Gnocchi with a Cream of Wild Mushroom sauce and Parmesan Crisp (£8.95); it was labelled as vegetarian, although I’m a little sceptical that the parmesan crisp would have been, so had I have been strict it may have been worth checking this. The dish was beautifully presented and the sauce was utterly scrumptious. The Gnocchi were very smooth but a little stodgy which meant they stuck in my mouth somewhat, but were still tasty overall. My companion enjoyed the Chicken Tikka Banyan Style with Yogurt Dressing (£8.25). It was tender and very well seasoned and even the accompanying side-salad, so often just served as a colourful decoration on the plate, was delicious because of the tasty dressing it was served with.
For my main I chose a Banyan vegetable biryani cooked with fresh mint, onion, tomato and kaffir lime (£12.50). This was served with a yoghurt dressing (which hadn’t been mentioned on the menu) and was again beautifully presented. It was however, rather disappointing on taste. The dish was essentially spicy (overly so for my palate) rice mixed with undercooked, overly-chunky vegetables. The yoghurt dressing was tasty, but the dish was just missing something.
The interestingly named Mongolian Warrior Lamb Hot Pot (£12.50) which my companion chose was tasty. It also had a kick to it which wasn’t mentioned in the menu and would probably not have been to everyone’s taste, but she enjoyed it. The lamb was very well cooked and tender and it was again very well presented. We were momentarily startled part-way through the main course when the LED (low-energy I believe, as part of the green credentials!) light panels directly next to our table were switched on. Perhaps we were a little too close for comfort, but overall the lighting in the restaurant was now great; atmospheric and attractive.
For pudding we shared the Chocolate Brownie with Ice Cream (£5.90). This was a very generous portion (which had been a theme throughout the night) and was plenty for the two of us. The brownie was surprisingly light and slightly tart which may not have been to every taste but I found to be very tasty. On balance a little less brownie and more of the accompanying compote/coulis would have been nice, but it still worked well. We steered clear of the adventurous Cheese Mousse and cinnamon crumble option that was listed on the dessert menu!
It was good to see the green credentials in action when the water was served to the table; this was purified water from reusable glass bottles. Given the environmental impact of bottled water normally, this is likely to significantly reduce the restaurant’s carbon footprint and so is worthy of a mention. The taste of the water was still very good; had I not been looking out for it I wouldn’t have noticed the difference. On the less-positive side, I saw no evidence of any emphasis on locally sourced ingredients, which one would perhaps have expected from an eco-establishment.
The choice of wine was fine, but began at a hefty £17.50 for house wine. Even the normally good value Cote du Rhone which we chose was £22.50 a bottle which left a slightly sour taste on the basis of its price rather than flavours. It felt like the pricing of the list was akin to that of a central London, top restaurant, and I’m not sure Banyan on Thames can quite carry that off just yet.
Overall, I think Banyan on Thames offers an intriguing and original menu in a stylish setting. The river views, particularly once the sun went down were spectacular and if you’re taking advantage of the 50% off food offer running at the moment, it would bring the otherwise rather expensive back down to good value.
All In London reviewed Banyan on Thames on Tue 18 May 2010