I start in smiling
and I just can't stop
You on the bottom
Me on top
Many years ago, you could walk along the South Bank from Waterloo to London Bridge and not see a soul. Well, you might have seen me and my colleagues staggering out of the Founders Arms of a lunchtime having had one too many pints, but that was about it. Now it is two long queues – one going downriver, the other up. Truly l'enfer, c'est les autres (sorry JP). Pleasingly though, everybody keeps to the left as they should. A small shimmy to the right (going downstream) however and you’re far from the madding crowd, in the OXO Tower. So called, because this is where Oxo (or bouillon) cubes were first made.
The last time DH were in here was about five years ago when I treated my younger siblings to a meal at Richard Neat’s eponymous gaff. It was nose-bleedingly expensive, not great and didn’t last very long. The restaurant, that is.
I’ve no idea what was here before but it’s now Bincho Yakitori a er…Yakitori joint. Actually, it also does Kushiyaki as well which apparently is any other skewered pieces of flesh. And very dainty little tidbits they are too. Although they all come in at between one and two quid you need to have quite a few to make a meal so the total price mounts up steeper than the slopes of Mount Fuji. It was all pleasant enough but totally unmemorable and ever so slightly reminiscent of an upmarket Wagamama.
Standouts were the Koushi no leba which were melting cubes of calves liver with chunks of grilled spring onions, the Shimeji (mushrooms) and the Shishito (peppers) which were similar to Pimientos de Padron (hey, there’s that Japan/Spain connection again). Although £1.50 for four little peppers is pushing it a bit even if they have been cooked on special Bincho charcoal.
The chicken gizzards were quite interesting (the menu states that other chicken parts are available which doesn’t leave too many) and the Unagi (Eel) wasn’t bad. There was a tendency to drown everything in soy which as far as I know may be an authentic way of upping the beer consumption. Best of all was the Hira suzuki (Stone Bass) an accurately grilled piece of fish with a little blob of bean paste on the side.
To drink there were the usual Japanese beers the best of which was the Sapporo Black stout. I also had an interesting sparkling sake Hou Hou Shu which although not a great match for the food – beer’s best here – was quite pleasant and refreshing on what was probably one of the more pleasant days of the English Summer.
The staff were all sweetness and light although I detected a slight sense of frustration after repeatedly turning down their suggestions to try the rice and soup dishes and also one of the more bizarre recs that if I wanted breakfast I could try the Tomatobacon skewer.
I passed on pud, paid up and wandered back down to join the throng on the Southbank. A group of noisy Italian students with identikit rucksacks were blocking the path, a man lazily chucked a can into the Thames. The thought of a few jars of Ram and Special suddenly seemed very appealing…