Bank Westminster + Zander Bar St James

Banking Success Story

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Dining and drinking fads. Gourmet fast food. Slow food. Lobster and chips. Lobster sliders. Chips in tin buckets. Twice fried or triple cooked chips. Courgette fries. Truffle fries. Quails’ eggs. Caviar blinis. More caviar blinis. Make that English Shah Caviar blinis. Beetroot macaroons. Flavoured éclairs (fashion forward). Gravadlax (having a fashion moment). Cup cakes (out of fashion). The great champagne versus prosecco debate. Pop ups. No signage. No booking. Social media invites only. Some fads don’t go away. Chopsticks are like camera film. Why bother? Time to go digital, get some cutlery.

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Tate Britain opened its doors recently to reveal the long awaited redisplay by museum director Penelope Curtis of its collection of British art. Walking through the full circuit of galleries, visitors can now enjoy a chronological presentation of paintings from 1540 to the present day. The overall effect is fresh and engaging, a rich overview of British art tracing the development of styles and fashions. Unrelated topics? Not really. Taste in food and art is prone to the whims of fashion. Tate Britain, in this case, has taken the classic approach to gallery hang.

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Across the Thames, Bank Westminster has taken the classic approach to its menu. Or in the words of manager Marco Pavone, “International classic with a twist of modern,” to be precise. It’s on Buckingham Gate, almost as far north as one may reach from Victoria without sensing the imminence of the palace. There is plenty of note on Buckingham Gate itself, from The Blue Coat School to Westminster Chapel. Despite the central location, an air of tranquillity pervades the spring evening. Bank Westminster’s immediate neighbours are the four star Crowne Plaza Hotel and the five star Taj Suites and Residences. The latter are owned by Tata, the company behind Jaguar. The 170 square metre Jaguar Suite comes with a chauffeured car. No prizes for guessing what make.

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An enigmatic doorway opens off the street into the adjoining Zander Bar. “The bar is 50 metres long,” confirms Marco, “the same length as an Olympic swimming pool.” No doubt it makes for some great Olympian nights on the town. A lean corridor leads past three intimate panelled private dining rooms and then – tah dah! – the restaurant, a contemporary conservatory in a historic courtyard. A plethora of aquamarine ceramic tiles, terracotta friezes, brick ogee arches and Juliet balconies combine with a fountain and lush planting to Continental effect outdoors. Indoors, things start sunny side up with the Warm Potted Shrimp Salad (£8.70), eggs to perfection. Herb Roast Scallops along with crisp pork belly and apple (£10.50) are astutely conceived and colourfully presented.

Head chef David Ferguson spent time at Bank’s sister restaurant in Birmingham learning, executing and honing his craft. This accumulated skill is most obvious in one of the main course dishes, Monkfish with Garlic, Parsley and Thyme Butter (£21.95). On the bone, its flavours are gentle and cohesive; its texture fleshy; it looks as pretty as a picture; and it seems to sing of the sea. An onion ring stack on the side proves to be a towering guilty pleasure. Fillet of Steak (£23.95) from the charcoal burning grill served with peppercorn sauce is perfectly cooked and hugely succulent.

“We change our menu four times a year,” highlights Marco. “Summer’s coming soon! Whatever season it is, we only serve the very best British beef from Hereford and Aberdeen Angus cattle naturally reared on farms selected by us. We pride ourselves on the philosophy of ingredient provenance.” Meanwhile, the food and wine service continues apace, attractive and attractively polite and politely unobtrusive.

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The only thing more devilishly delightful than Banoffee or Eton Mess (not a euphemism for Cameron’s Cabinet) is Banoffee Eton Mess (£7.50), the sum of two evils. Constituent parts – banana, toffee, crunchy meringue – are deconstructed and chocolate brownies thrown in for good measure. Cubes (the chocolate brownies), pipes (more chocolate) and three dimensional ogees (the meringues) emerge from a creamy base. Pineapple Tarte Tatin (£7.50) with coconut ice cream is an equally sagaciously sell-your-soul choice.

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A well considered wine list complements these classic culinary principles. La Clochette Sancerre, 2011 (£39.95) is excellent to go along with the first half of the meal. The second half is accompanied (it is a bank holiday) by a vibrant South African favourite, False Bay Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 (£25.95). “We do what we do properly,” is Marco’s catchphrase. Forgotten food. Now that’s another fad. But memorable food is what Bank Westminster is about. Classic memorable food done properly.

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About Lavender's Blue

Snappy Wordsmith
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