Blackout Banquet, Butler’s Wharf

Even the bread is black, in a good way you understand,  the Chefs have used the darkest rye flour.  Welcome to D&D restaurants on the River Thames who are pulling out all the plugs from their four restaurants on Butler’s Wharf.  At 8.30pm each night during the ten days of the Thames Festival,  the area is lit by candlelight and diners discover something rather magical and fun.  Each venue has their own calendar of events which include the weird and rather wonderful blind food and wine tasting.

A 140-seat, 40 metre long banqueting table stretches the length of the exterior of  Le Pont de La Tour, inside a pop-up see-through tent.  The side flaps are left open so that you can watch, in our case, Tower Bridge transform from day to night.

Banquet table

The Chefs have created a clever menu using dishes that require black ingredients.   I have to say all of the courses were delicious but add to that the view and the marvellous wine choice and the evening turned into one of the best experiences I’ve had on the banks of the Thames for a while.

40 metre banquet table

The table

The night began with a ‘goldfish in a bag’ gin cocktail, a plastic brightly coloured fish, was in fact an ice cube and there was a bendy straw secured tightly by a freezer tie.

Gin cocktails

Table setting

To begin we had black Lentils, soured cream, sweet tamarind, dock spices.

Black Lentils

Then we moved on to a Terrine of  Skate Wing with purple potato, and a squid ink dressing.

Terrine of Skate Wing

For the vegetarians there’s a mushroom consommé with black truffle royal and trompette de la mort mushrooms.

Black bread

Here’s the Roast Thames Valley Wood Pigeon served with black pudding, braised beetroot and turnip.

Roast Thames Valley Wood Pigeon

Again, the vegetarian option is a tempting choice, a wild mushroom Neal’s Yard Free Range Scotch Egg, served with English black truffle and heritage black potato.

Blackout Mirror

For dessert a perfectly wobbly pana cotta with wild berry compote.

Panna cotta with wild berry compote

Wine

Meals cost £35 per head for three courses, an arrival drink and coffee.  Call 020 7940 1833 to make a reservation.

Each restaurant has different things going on during the Festival, here are the links to the others.   Butler’s Wharf Chop HouseCantina del Ponte and the Blue Print Cafe.

I leave you with some of the views I took on the evening – you’ve just got to love London.

 

The Blue Print Café – A Room With A View

What a view — the enviable position of the Blue Print Café is certainly up there and a five starrer in my opinion – Canary Wharf winking to the east and Tower Bridge proudly displaying a set of Olympic Rings, to the west.  In fact this restaurant is doubly blessed – a lofty position gives it a distinct advantage and it has Mark Jarvis as its chef.

He has filled the very large shoes of former Blue Print Café stalwart, Jeremy Lee whose legacy clearly lives on in the menu.  The night we ate the dishes on offer oozed seasonal simplicity with tastes of some of the very best ingredients this country has to offer

Our host was the wonderful Joao Luz and the he looked after us incredibly well from the moment we’re seated to the moment we leave.  He helps us with the menu and chooses glasses of Chabilis and Gruner Veltliner to match the food, which were spot on.

We begin with a small bowl of fresh popcorn sprinkled with finely grated Parmesan.  There was a lot of finger licking and bowl scraping and we despatched the bowl with barely any glaze attached.  An unexpected but welcome beginning which went perfectly with my ultra-dry Prosecco.

The Cromer crab tasted as fresh as though being eaten on the quayside and served with the lightest avocado Kermit-green mousse, shards of croutons, chunks of cucumber and a delicate elderflower stem (£8.00).  The tastes and textures totally blew me away and was an excellent start.

Mister, chose the Heirloom beetroot, goat’s curd, pistachio (£7.00) and beetroot to start.  Perfectly shaped orbs of designer, blemish-free beets sat perfectly with the curd and sprinkling of pistachio.  A palate of colour which would have fitted in perfectly downstairs in the Design Museum and the combination of flavours totally rocked.

My love of the West country prompted another dish from that part of the world and the Cornish sea bream (£16.50) was sweet and dense.  Its flesh was as white as a fishmongers apron and cooked to perfection.  I’m a lazy eater so I found it all a bit too much, picking my way through a network of bones and I think it takes the edge off what is otherwise a beautiful eating experience.  Yet, this plate of food was an homage to Cornwall and the early potatoes were creamy and buttery tasting  nothing like I’ve ever had before, the hoops of squid were velvety and the chorizo’s spice cut right through the flavours without screaming the dish down.

Mister’s French turbot (£18.00), however, was the winner.  It sat proudly on a bed of salty, steamed Samphire with the sweetest sugar drop tomatoes around a delicately herbed butter it’s well crisped skin glistening in the table light.  The fish was moist, fell away on contact with a fork and had clearly been handled with love from the moment it reached the kitchen.

We chose a couple of dishes of vegetables, the restaurant is supplied by Secretts farm in Surrey the roast carrots (£3.50) had been lightly brushed with a hint of rosemary and were sugar-sweet.  The Oxheart tomatoes (£3.50) cut to display their beautiful heart shape and were simply drizzled with balsamic vinegar.

The menu really does have something for everyone – not so good in the main department for the vegetarian – the ubiquitous risotto although unusually with courgette flower and saffron (£14.50) but two or three decent starters would definitely tick the box.  For the meat eaters there’s Elwy Valley lamb saddle, minted peas and roast aubergine (£20.00), a roast chicken breast with roast vegetables and red wine (£15.00), Huntsham pork with caramelised onion, blackberry and bread sauce (£19.50) and Galloway 8oz ribeye with pommes puree, Swiss chard and wild mushrooms (£21.00).  The lamb saddle is also available with carrot, celeriac and fennel for two people to share (£40.00).

There’s also an excellent value two course £18.00 and three course £23.00 menu – all have three dishes from the main a la carte menu and not the dullest choices either.

As the sun sets, we’re treated to a light display courtesy of London Bridge – and it’s a fabulous sight.   This is one of the reasons why I’ve been invited to the restaurant.  During the Olympic Games there’s something a little more fancy going on with coloured LED’s later in the evening and what a better seat than a ringside one.

Mister isn’t a dessert man and was “stuffed” he said.  No amount of cajoling was going to get him to change his mind so that I could eat two desserts.  So many choices – all fabulous – but eventually I opted for the lemongrass posset, lemon and pistachio cake (£5.50).  No disappointment there, and the cake was a beautiful shortbread alternative.  Fresh strawberries straight from the patch, sat aside the dish.  I love fruit with my posset, I find it far too rich and dense without.  There were plenty of other choices from riche pudding with apricot and almond (£5.00), a malted apple tart with vanilla ice cream (£5.50) and a peanut butter ganache, dark chocolate sorbet with passion fruit (£5.50) then a cheese plate with biscuits (£8.00).

When the weather improves, the picture windows retract, and there’s even a small terrace to enjoy the view.

When you’re next on the south side of the River, walk past Pont de La Tour and the Chop House and keep on walking until you hit the Design Museum.  Go upstairs and enjoy the view, food and service at the The Blue Print Café, you will not be disappointed and that I promise.

Blueprint Café
Design Museum
London SE1 2YD

020 7378 7031