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Bank Westminster & Zander Bar, SW1

Louise Elgin changed her mind about Victoria

When arranging to go out with friends for drinks or dinner I don't normally consider Victoria. It has always struck me as being rather dead after office hours. So when I was invited to Zander Bar in Buckingham Gate I had to confess I'd not previously considered it. However, on reading that it had been awarded 'Bar of the Year' by the Evening Standard I dusted down my glad rags in anticipation of a good night out.

Zander boasts the longest bar in Europe, 36 meters in all. You have to stand at one end and look down to appreciate it properly, which is not easy after sampling one or two of their legendary cocktails! With its futuristic and atmospheric setting it is quite a funky place. The music is perhaps a little too loud for my liking, but then again perhaps I'm not quite their target market! A couple of cocktails later it was definitely time to eat. Alas, rain was now lashing down outside so I was keen to stay as near as possible. As luck would have it, just a few paces from the bar and in the same building was Bank Westminster, a sister of the restaurant Bank Aldwych so we decided we had to try it!

Set in a conservatory and backing onto a beautifully lit Victorian courtyard complete with stunning fountain, I felt I had been transported to an oasis of calm. In the summer I am reliably informed, one can dine al fresco, so roll on those balmy nights! However, back to the present. The restaurant was spacious and had a relaxed environment, very comfy and stylish mauve leather chairs and well-spaced tables. The menu was vast with something for everybody. A choice of 14 starters ranging in prices from £5.95 for a Caesar salad through to Cornish dressed crab with avocado dressing & parmesan crisp £11.50. For offal lovers there was an orgy of black pudding, seared foie gras, fried duck egg & pancetta £10.25.

We commenced with a Thai spiced clam risotto, baby spinach and basil £7.50 and a cauliflower and olive soup £5.50. The soup was thick and more-ish. The subtle taste of cauliflower mingling superbly with the olive infusion and small pieces of olive in every other mouthful. Delicious! The risotto was spicy but not too hot, with a tang of tomatoes and cheese, backed up by the clam. A puree of basil and a smattering of baby spinach leaves cemented the delicate flavours.

We were drinking wine by the glass, I tried the Petit Chablis St. Claire '00 £6.30, this was a classic example having a dense flavour and a long finish. My pal tried a glass of Pinot Grigio Mezzacorona, Trentino '02 at £4.20. It's also one of my favourite wines , always reliably fruity and delicious. In fact the wine list was massive. Split into sections such as 'spicy', and 'round smooth', which I thought was very helpful for those of us who don't always know our ways round a wine list, there was a varied selection of both old and new world. Even some English wine had crept on the list with the intriguing name of 'Curious Grape Pinot Blanc'00 (Kent) £18.00.

The main courses were divided into sections. Vegetarian: Fish, Meat and the Specials of the day. There was a good choice in all categories from a caramelised vegetable and filo pastry tart £10.50; for the veggies, fillet of seabass with a saffron & vanilla risotto with tomato vinaigrette £19.95; for those in a fishy mood and fillet of beef, with artichoke puree, cep ravioli, wild mushrooms & port jus £20.50 for the carnivores. Included in that day's specials was a rather good sounding tagliatelle with basil & hazelnut pesto, served with mussels, feta & cherry tomatoes £15.25.

Being in the mood for something fairly simple I ordered the Lincolnshire sausages with leek & bacon mash & mustard cream £12.95. The sausages were herby and full of flavour and were served with a rich gravy. This was superbly mopped up by the mash which had nuggets of leek and bacon throughout. Well-cooked traditional English food

Urging my friend to try something different, (he's a beef man by nature!) he ordered the assiette of lamb, confit tomatoes, potato fondant & sauce vierge £19.95. On its arrival I felt a pang of jealously as it really did look very good! Its presentation was superb. Around the turret of buttery spinach, potato and tomato were beautifully pink little lamb chops. He said they were crispy on the outside and very tender on the inside, melting in the mouth together with a rich gravy.

For pudding we shared an apple and calvados charlotte with blood peach coulis £5.95. It was light, the charlotte having a subtle (bearly discernable) apple taste and it was covered in flakes of chocolate and a wafer slice of dried apple. The coulis mingled well with the other delicate flavours. Other offerings included the day's special, Bread & butter pudding £4.95, and pineapple carpaccio with gin tonic sorbet -(sounds amazing!) -at £5.95. Our bill including service was £93.38, about what I had expected for this standard of restaurant.

As I sauntered merrily home, replete from a very happy evening's fine dining, I concluded that I must add Bank Westminster & Zander Bar to my mental list of places to meet friends. I am very please to announce that Victoria is firmly back on the culinary map! 

Bank Westminster and Zander Bar
45 Buckingham Gate London SW1 Tel: 020 7379-9797

Louise Elgin, April 2003

Other Dine Online reviews of restaurants in the area:

Quilon (next door)  The Cinnamon Club

UK Restaurant Reviews – The Best Of The Dine Online Restaurant Reviews 2001 - 2010


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