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Sunday, 1 May 2011
Opened in 2002, in the premises of the Threadneedle Hotel (part of the The Eton Collection's boutique hotel group), this imposing bar and restaurant occupies a former Midland Bank branch. Leading its kitchen, Head Chef Barry Tonks, formerly of the Dorchester Hotel and Chapter One, was head chef at McClements in Twickenham where he earned his first Michelin star.
The entrance to the hotel is impressive, with an elaborate glass dome in the foyer and abundant displays of freshly cut flowers. The dining room is reached through a very smart bar, and is also striking in setting, with soaring Corinthian columns, plush furniture, white linen tablecloths, and opulent wood panelling and floors.
On the Friday evening when Dr G and I visited, the restaurant and bar were moderately busy with City workers winding down for the weekend. Barry Tonks' menu as expected read well, with many interesting options to choose from, and an extensive wine list to match.
To start, Dr G ordered the "Warm thinly sliced pork belly" @ £8.95, served with apple pureé and pecorino cheese. The pork belly option is always hard for us to resist, but despite the attractive presentation of this dish, we found it rather lacking in flavour.
A much better option was "Hand chopped Scottish beef tartare" @ £8.95. served with toasted sour-dough. This was excellent, with flavoursome well seasoned fresh beef, mixed with capers, parsley and rosemary, presented with a raw egg yolk on top. I really enjoyed this starter.
For the main course, Dr G had the "Slow cooked Denham Estate venison" @ £22.95, served with beetroot marmalade, butternut squash pureé, and Epoisse gratin. This was deliciously tender, with a slight hint of game flavours, giving a real depth of flavour to the dish. We also enjoyed the contrasting sweetness of the beetroot marmalade.
I opted for the "Aged grain fed rib eye of beef a la plancha" @ £26.95 pp, served with onions and young carrots, macaroni cheese and red wine sauce. Another winner, the beef was meltingly tender and perfectly cooked, and only improved by the magnificent red wine reduction that accompanied it. The macaroni cheese was also an excellent addition to the dish.
To accompany our food, we ordered a bottle of Chateau d'Argadens 2005 @ £37. This lovely Bordeaux Superior had a good depth of red and black fruit, and was nicely structured with fine tannins to accompany the meat. The wine list is extensive with a few options below £20, and quite a few good examples between £20 and £30. I felt this was a well thought- out and comprehensive list, with options to suit a variety of budgets and occasions.
For dessert, I ordered the "Crème brûlée" @ £6.95, served with cassis sorbet. This was as good a brûlée as I can recall - creamy, rich with vanilla seeds, and with a fine layer of burned sugar on top. The unusual partnering with a tart blackcurrant sorbet was also spot on.
Dr G had the "Floating island" @ £9.95. This was also delicious - a perfectly light, soft meringue island on a rich custard, topped with lipstick-pink praline.
Service was very attentive but not overbearing. Chatting to our waitress, she told us about Bonds' 3 course Prix Fixe Menu @ £19.95 served both at lunch and dinner, including an aperitif or glass of wine. I thought this menu excellent value considering the central location (only a few minutes from my office) and quality of cooking, and one I hope to try before long.
Cost: The London Foodie was a guest of Bonds Bar and Restaurant. I estimate that a three course meal would cost between £35 and £40 per person excluding wine.
Likes: Elegant restaurant, friendly staff, the hand-chopped steak tartare was delicious, as was the meltingly tender rib-eye steak and venison. Comprehensive and well-priced wine list. Central location.
Verdict: Excellent quality cooking at reasonable prices in a central City location. Extensive and well-priced wine list, including some great Bordeaux options. The steak tartare alone warrants another visit. Highly recommended.