Westminster & Zander Bar,
Elgin changed her mind about
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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!
Westminster and Zander Bar
45 Buckingham Gate London SW1 Tel: 020 7379-9797
Elgin, April 2003
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