"It's not much but it's ours"

Wednesday, October 31, 2007


I am a zider drinker
I drinks it all of the day
I am a zider drinker
It soothes all me troubles away
Ooh aargh ooh argh aay
Ooh aargh ooh argh aay
(With apologies to DF & WB)

The area north of London’s Famous Non-Wobbly Millenium Bridge is a bit of a gastro-desert. Apart from the execrable Conran joint Paternoster there isn’t really anywhere to eat beyond the places that fuel the guys and gals of the City. So I was interested to read about a new place just under the aforementioned bridge on the north bank of the Thames called er..Northbank.

The site was once the home of an unloved and by all accounts duff restaurant that helped promote the view that food in Britain in general and London in particular was swill. (Actually, a lot of foreigners still believe that. Discuss). For some weird reason I had feared the worse but I needn’t have worried this place has got a lot going for it. Not least there was a very grown-up feel to the restaurant: low-level lighting (more on that later), a well stocked bar, banquettes, the view, the quiet buzz of the punters.

I was a bit early so I propped up the bar for a Dry Martini. It was well made – very cold and suitably dry - but lacked that visceral punch that you would get from the best. The pork scratchings were excellent though.

The ALC had a definite West Country feel to it which was confirmed by the owner who also hails from those parts. For some odd reason the idea of a menu based around the food products of the West tickled me somewhat, although it may had been the fact I’d just seen an advert for some Cornish comedian called Jethro and then starting musing about Pasties and Padstow.

Strange thoughts of Bodmin aside I decided to embrace the theme and started with half a dozen of the Duchy of Cornwall Oysters which were creamy and briny – these are very good things.

Hogs Pudding is a sort of WC haggis/white pudding/boudin made with pork, oatmeal and offal. Made to the owner’s Mum’s recipe it was light and tasty although I have to say, Mrs B, that I could have done with a bit more offal in the mix. The pud came with chunks of glazed apple and a little honey dressing that worked well in combination and showed a bit of nous in the kitchen.

Similarly, with a big old hunk GOS Pork Belly which had been lightly spiced with aniseed and cooked until tender c/w beautifully smoky sausage, some sweet sweet clams and more of that great crackling. It actually didn’t need the mash or the rather prosaic sauce (those apples from the first course would have been a better option) or the rather wet and cold kale I got as a side dish (that’ll learn me to eat veg).

A Treacle Tart ticked all the right boxes: warm, right texture, not too sweet. The only problem being it needed good clotted cream instead of the rather hard ice cream version that came instead.

So lots of “Tick VGs” for the food which tasted great and the service which was smart and on the money but a big “1/10 See Me” for the lighting which was pitched at NYC levels – great if you’re on a date not so good if you want to see what you’re eating which is, after all, a pretty large part of enjoying food.

To be fair the owner did bring more candles unbidden, but they didn’t really help with the ambient brightness. The upside: the extra candles did turn my table into a nice little shrine – to all the porky treats, I like to think…

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