At The Pass

Northbank, London EC4

I had expected to get lost; London has changed so much since I last worked in the City – skyscrapers and smart buildings replacing familiar old faces.

Close to the Millenium Bridge

But I knew Paul’s Walk was south of St Paul’s cathedral on the Thames Path and very close to the Millenium Bridge. Partly by luck I spotted the bridge.

‘Don’t go onto the bridge’ I was told, ‘take the stairs down to the Thames Path next to it, turn left and the restaurant is just a few yards in front of you’.

Northbank had been so easy to find that for once I was seriously early.  I took a few photos of river life but there was a chill wind so I decided to take refuge in the restaurant. As I did I noticed a nice outdoor seating area, great for al fresco imbibing and dining.

The door opened onto a bar and reception

The river facing door opened onto a bar and reception area where a group of about a dozen 30-somethings were enjoying pre-lunch aperitifs. 

Great staff

General Manager Angelo Lupinetti’s welcome was efficient, warm and friendly and set the tone for all the other staff we came in contact with.

It was a busy Friday lunch service obviously warming up to Christmas lunch parties; the servers worked so hard but still found time to smile and chat – a big thank you in particular to Jola and Giovanni; they were fantastic.

Several smaller dining areas

The dining area stretches the length of the room, cleverly sectioned off into smaller dining spaces to make it feel more intimate.

On one side on a slightly raised platform are booths with dark green upholstery, opposite them, but separated by the aisle, other dining areas each with four or five tables and chairs.

The top half of the walls are covered with cream wall paper;  on it and etched in green,  are  images of Tower Bridge, people and various activities – it reminded me somewhat of a willow-pattern design. The design is carried through onto the backs of the menus, cleverly linking elements of the room together.

A Cornish influence on the menu

I suspected without looking it up, or being told, that Christian Butler the owner of Northbanks might hail from Cornwall – it was the two pages of Cornish gin on the menu plus the frequent mention of produce from the county that gave the game away.

The menu, as all good menus should, changes seasonally and with availability. Crispy pork belly with pickled vegetables and celeriac (£9) was the starter chosen by my friend. He loved its melting-like-butter texture and salty and sweet flavour. 

He followed that by some rich and hearty venison shoulder (£20), which he also raved over. 

I spotted some goat’s cheese and fig tarts on the Snacks menu and asked if I could have them as my starter. Of course I could, and I loved these three dainty morsels in their crisp filo pastry cases (£4).

The catch of the day – cod – was my choice for a main dish (charged at market price). I hate to say it but it wasn’t great –a hefty chunk of fish served with a spoonful of tartar sauce and half a charred lemon. The fish was slightly overcooked and the presentation unimaginative – not even a dusting of chopped parsley or a sprinkle of micro herbs to make it look more appetising. 

For vegetables (£4.50 per portion) we chose one portion of charred broccoli with chilli and one portion of hand cut chips. The broccoli, whilst tasty, could have done with another couple of minutes on the griddle – the stems were very tough, but okay chips.

For dessert I opted for the lime tart (£7.50) the filling was nice and sharp but the crust was overly-hard;  luckily friend’s family sized portion of sticky toffee pudding (£8) with its gorgeous, treacly sauce was much enjoyed – proper ‘come in from the cold’ stuff, as he put it. A bottle of house red or white from £20, carafe £14, a glass £7.

Office gatherings were taking place

Whether it was because office gatherings were taking place we know not, but the room was very noisy and the bustling ambience we thought not conducive to relaxed catch-ups with friends.

There was a party of about 10 business men sitting behind me making conversation really difficult.

One or two other parties were also taking place, adding no doubt to the pressure on the kitchen staff – certainly our food took ages to arrive. It didn’t worry us, but it could have.

A cocktail beside the Thames

We agreed we would like to return to Northbank on a balmy summer’s evening.

We would sit outside in the garden area watching the sun going down over the Thames whilst sipping a cocktail before settling down to a relaxed evening meal. Roll on summer.

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