Banyan On The Thames Review
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A hotel restaurant invariably has to try twice as hard as a regular restaurant. The negative associations they conjure up don’t exactly scream ‘atmospheric destination dining’: soulless room dotted with table-for-one business-trippers, desperately trying to appear relaxed as they juggle a book, a blackberry and a forkful of bland modern-European food, the likes of which is replicated all over the world. In fact they're more likely to quietly mumble 'somewhere to go because you’ve just arrived, it’s getting late, the weather’s bad and investigating the area’s other dining options is way too much hassle, so you might as well just eat here'.
Add an out of the way location (Battersea’s up-and-coming-but-still-some-way-to-go-yet Falcon Wharf), and one of the worst economic periods the restaurant business has seen in years, and it’s fair to say Banyan on the Thames has its work cut out.
All credit, then, to Banyan’s staff for making this a welcoming and relaxed place to eat (once we finally found it). Ene, Liina and Marko were everything good restaurant staff should be, but rarely are: charming, attentive without being pushy, eager to make recommendations and - most importantly - proud as punch of their new workplace.
And, negative hotel restaurant stereotypes aside, they have good reason to be optimistic about this one’s future, because while Banyan’s sleek, modern décor and obligatory bird-of-paradise floral displays can be found in umpteen European city hotels, the views from its riverside terrace set it apart from that crowd.
As soon as the sun comes out, the doors are flung open and the outside terrace fills up, this is sure to be transformed into a dining spot worth seeking out, whether you’re helicoptering in on business (the restaurant is next door to London Heliport) or a local looking for a meal with a difference. Decent London al fresco dining opportunities are, after all, even more rare than inspiring hotel restaurants.
Attached to the newly opened Rafayel on the Left Bank, one of the world’s first environmentally conscious luxury hotels, Banyan also breaks the mould with its fusion menu. There are enough traditional favourites to avoid offending the hotel guests, several interesting twists, and Indian specialties that are particularly successful.
Heck, I’d go back for the delicious tarka dahl alone, and, as a massive lentil fan, that’s saying something. Served with some of the biggest, meatiest lamb chops I have ever encountered, which had been expertly marinated in a special mix of spices, this was anything but bland and predictable food.
Admittedly, the starters were more formulaic. The (sautéed king prawn) salad looked like it might have come out of a bag from Tesco Express up the road and featured the obligatory balsamic zig zag drizzle. The Cromer Crab, mango and king prawn with chilli and coriander raita, however, delivered well-balanced flavour. Honourable mentions also go to the selection of plain, peshwari, cheese and garlic naan, fresh out of the tandoor oven and verging on perfection in bread form, and the Kheer Brulee dessert, a caramelised Indian rice pudding.
Banyan’s wine list also covers a broad global selection. Here, once again, the staff were the stars and happily recommended several reasonably-priced options, including a Fortant de France Syrah rosé and a delicious South African Chenin Blanc, which pared well with our food choices.
Considering there is next-to-zero chance of passing trade, and that we visited on a freezing cold and rainy midweek evening, the restaurant was surprisingly full, with a chic European-looking clientele to match its décor and - mostly Estonian - staff. At one table overlooking the water, what looked to be the Lithuanian equivalent of Pete Doherty and his model girlfriend shamelessly lingered for hours over a bottle of wine. A couple of tables up, a group of smartly dressed Italian hedge-fund manager-types were catching up on business - a lone nod to the kind of corporate customer found in most hotel dining rooms.
The atmosphere here really is far more relaxed and intimate than first impressions might suggest, and Banyan on the Thames definitely has the potential to become an exception to the hotel restaurant rule. I really hope it achieves this, if for no other reason than to keep its lovely staff smiling.
• Large riverside terrace
• Part of a luxury eco hotel so if you miss the bus you can always stay over
• Great Indian dishes
• Difficult to find
• Desolate in Winter
• Has the windiest bus stop this side of Canary Wharf...read more
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- Cuisine Type: International
- Group: (Independent/Freehouse)
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