Bankside is becoming somewhat of a foodies’ paradise. Gourmets’ favourite, Borough Market, has long been a resident and must surely have been a driving force behind the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Mark Hix and Rainer Becker opening restaurants in the vicinity.
A newer addition is OXBO Bankside, headed up by Executive Chef Paul Bates. OXBO describes itself as “a local neighbourhood eatery” bringing together “a contrast of authentic ingredients with exotic tastes that give old English favourites an innovative twist”. Bates has travelled extensively, in particular around Australia and Singapore, countries which, he says, inspired him to start experimenting with different tastes.
On the night we visited, we took advantage of OXBO’s current special offer – three courses from a set menu, plus a glass of bubbles, for £21. Excellent value for London in general, let alone trendy Bankside – but was it any good?
Well, yes – but with a couple of provisos. The menu was innovative & appealing and earned a big thumbs-up for its creative vegetarian options. We certainly didn’t feel that we were missing out in any way by choosing the set menu over the à la carte.
Unusually (we all have very different food preferences), we all plumped for the same starter: Kholrabi Cold Water Shrimp Raviolo, served with yoghurt, tomato and aubergine – with all of us agreeing it was one of the nicest things we’d eaten for ages. Delicate in texture, the juicy shrimps complemented by the yoghurt garnish, it left you wanting (far) more.
Mixed experiences with the main courses, however. I was super-excited by my choice of New Haven Cod with crab potato, rainbow chard, tomato bisque and fennel slaw, expecting to be blown away by a fusion of tastes and colours. The reality, alas, was somewhat different; the cod, whilst undoubtedly a decent piece of fish, was bland – unaided in taste by any of the trimmings. The much-anticipated crab potato turned out to be a disturbing sludgy colour, with as little flavour as its cod counterpart – and the bisque, chard and slaw offered little in the way of compensation. All the items were perfectly edible, but equally tasteless – and I ended up doing something I almost never do in restaurants – liberally sprinkling salt over the entire dish.
As is often the way, the dessert course came to the rescue. My Ribblesdale cheese, hailing from Yorkshire, was deliciously salty and combined beautifully with the restaurant’s home-made Pear Chutney. I wolfed down the lot. My dining companions fared equally well with their Pear Bakewell Tarts, served with blackberry sorbet and puree, the empty dishes around me a testament to the enjoyability of this take on an English classic.
Everything else about the evening was great: our surroundings, a combination of exposed brick, wrought-iron fittings and chequered floor tiles, were both attractive and cosy – and the lovely staff could not have been more attentive. A special mention must go to our complementary glasses of bubbles: high-quality fizz indeed.
All in all, a fabulous dining experience and a restaurant to which I would happily return: I can already hear OXBO’s Surf ‘n’ Turf Wednesdays and its Fizzy Fridays calling my name. I so wanted to award OXBO a 10/10, but I’m afraid I can’t forgive the tasteless cod or the zero-flavour crab potato. Next time, maybe…