"phenomenal value set lunch in a stunning setting"Review Rating: Reviewed by All In London
Booked in for a midweek lunch with a colleague on a rather dreary winter’s day, I’ll be honest that the pre-conditions for a dazzling lunch weren’t really there, despite appreciating that I was going to a “right posh place” as my dad from Lancashire would say. Indeed the Bingham (at number 88), was in this year’s All In One Ultimate Restaurant List
; i.e. in London’s elite 100 restaurants.
My mood changed though with the immediate and warm welcome that we received sans the formality that you might expect at a place of this class. Alongside the warm welcome which greeted us was a lingering (though not over-bearing) smell of paint; evidence of the restaurant’s very recent and extensive refurbishment which we had the privilege of enjoying the benefit of.
The newly spruced up decor was something I would describe as modern, retro-chic; an oxymoron I’d agree, but accurate nevertheless! The newly laid wooden floor was beautiful and made for great acoustics; with a lively buzz filling what began as a quite empty space. Even when the two adjoining dining rooms filled up later on during our meal, the sound level wasn’t overbearing. I also really appreciated the well-judged spacing between the tables. No doubt a few more covers could have been squeezed in, and in other establishments they would have made use of this opportunity, but you felt a real sense of enjoying personal space rather than being crammed in. As it was, we had a perfect table by the French windows and overlooking the river.
I began my selection from the lunchtime set menu (after a most delicious glass of champagne), with ‘Pumpkin Risotto, sherry jelly, trompette de la mort, hazelnut’ whilst my companion had the Truffled Cabbage Soup, poached duck egg, chestnuts and bacon. Both sounded like real winter-warmers on paper, though in reality the risotto was beautifully light; the pumpkin pieces were slightly al dente which gave the risotto a much greater contrast in textures than I’d expected. There was a subtle and delicious hint of hazelnut shining through the dish, which arguably made the addition of a near invisible and tasteless sherry jelly on top rather superfluous.
The cabbage soup, I was told had delicious and well-cooked flavours individually and was certainly beautiful to look at; a stunning green more akin to pea soup. As a whole though, it didn’t quite work. The soup was thick, the slow-cooked egg runny and the combination of the two textures seemed uncomfortable on the palate which detracted from the seasonal flavours.
For me, it would have been interesting to hear more about why the sommelier had decided on the particular wine pairings with each dish. It took me to specifically ask about the background to get this information, at which point it was clear that thought and knowledge had gone into the choice. This was a very minor point though and the choices he’d made were delicious and well-judged.
We chose our main courses; sea bream fillet, with sauteed squid and bitter orange vinaigrette for my companion and mushroom gnocchi for me. The fish was described as “perfectly cooked”. It was beautifully summery (good job it was a mild winter’s day!) with delicious citrus flavour (there was a request for more of the vinaigrette as it was gone by the time it had been fully appreciated!).
My gnocchi I found a little on the heavy side, but I think my view was slightly tainted by an incredible and uniquely light gnocchi that I’d experienced elsewhere a couple of weeks previously. The flavours here were all good, but there was no one flavour that packed a real punch.
The desserts were a real triumph; the ‘Bitter Chocolate Tart mandarin sorbet, passion fruit jelly, orange chantilly’ was indeed bitter, but at a perfectly judged level which didn’t make you wince as you tasted it as can so often be the case. It was rich and moist and beautifully bitter-sweet. The torte Chantilly and the sorbet were light and fresh providing really well-judged balance to the richness of the torte. The best chocolate torte I can remember!
We also felt obliged to try the other dessert option on the set menu! The ‘Passion Fruit Curd citrus salad, blood orange sorbet, meringue’ was also stunning; light, packed with flavour and with a real plate of contrasting but complimenting flavours and textures. The intensity of the passion fruit was balanced by the gentle bitterness of the grapefruit in the citrus salad.
To sum up, the French windows and beautiful balcony overlooking the river are (particularly in the summer when you’ll have to fight for a view!) worth coming for in themselves. But when you add to this high-class cooking, warm and efficient service and the phenomenal value of this set menu; £16 for two courses or £19.50 for three, it’s a fantastic place to come. It really lifted my mood and I would absolutely recommend it.
As an aside, please note that there is no hotel car park! There are some allocated spaces across the road (but you need to book ahead for these and there are time restrictions) and otherwise you will need to find the local NCP or metered parking which are a few minutes’ walk away.
All In London reviewed The Bingham on Mon 23 Jan 2012