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City Cafe at City Inn Westminster (Bar, Restaurant, Hotel)

Picture of City Cafe at City Inn Westminster in Westminster, London

30 John Islip Street, Westminster, London, SW1P 4DD
Cuisine: European
Tel: 020 7630 1000 | Email to City Cafe at City Inn Westminster | Transport: Westminster | Write review

City Cafe at City Inn Westminster Review

One way to get to the City Café at the City Inn is by cab. We forgot all that and chose two feet and a heartbeat. After all, there are things to see in London and, damnit, I keep missing them. To get started we headed out of Pimlico station and along the Thames to the Riverside Park Gardens. This site should interest our antipodean readers as the old Millbank Prison used to occupy this area from 1816 to 1890. This is where hordes of bread thieves were thrown onto ships headed for that disgusting climate of Australia. In the garden there is also art. Much like grammar, I know nothing of statues, but in the garden there’s a major piece of art. The statue, a Henry Moore piece, is named the "Locking Piece" and is on loan from the nearby Tate Britain.

The restaurant itself is hidden away from Millbank in a small street, so small you could be forgiven for missing it were it not for a Pizza Express protruding from corner of an otherwise leafy part of Westminster.

When we arrived there was no escaping the fact that the City Cafe is part of a hotel. The modern and unblemished décor could perhaps read as bland, but I had no time to contemplate the truth of this thought as we were greeted by a cheerful hostess chirpily suggesting the option of pre-dinner drinks. Being the pompous fools that we are, we started demolishing a bottle of the 2005 Château Marcillac Côtes de Bourg red.

I definitely got the feeling I was in a hotel restaurant. Perhaps the proximity to Westminster, perhaps the numerous suits whispering with a sense of fait accompli at nearby tables, perhaps the stylishly piped Piazolla styled Tango Nuveo, it was all so easy to fantasise that those who congregate here are powerful people making high level decisions. This may or may not be true, but we're not these kind of people, we just like food and liquor.

For entree I received a rather zesty prawn cocktail, and my colleague munched away on a white crab and mango salad. Aside from the customary ingredients the prawn cocktail was served replete with a colossal tempura king prawn. Visually it’s almost wrong, in the way that you wouldn’t put a large potato over a plate of chips - it doesn’t make sense – it’s monstrous and possibly unnecessary. Despite my protests and ensuing discussion with my colleague about the “prawns” and cons of serving it this way, it worked from the culinary point of view and the familiar tempura crunch provided a juxtaposition to the creamy softness of the smaller prawns.

Given the chefs brazen attempts at spicing up fundamental dishes, I hesitated before ordering the trio of pork for mains. Would it be served with an actual pig on top of the pork belly? I thought ‘why not?’ and if, in fact, it is served this way, it will show the suits at the next table who’s boss. Nothing says you’ve arrived in Westminster like a waiter bringing an entire pig to the table.

The anxious wait for pig would have dragged on further were it not for the attentive service of all staff and a welcome hello from the manager. The waiters are well drilled here. Though perhaps too eager at their jobs, as one intrepid waiter was arranging the next morning’s breakfast tables nearby – a move that could make even the most imbalanced of alcoholics question whether they should be enjoying that extra glass of wine.

Our mains finally arrived. Sadly, no oversized pig as the trio of pork was served in the traditional manner and precisely cooked, resulting in one of the more succulent pork dishes I can remember. The sides of broccoli and carrot were nicely cooked without losing their freshness. But there is a damn fine chef at work here, really amongst the best in London for the price.

At this point we were ready to call it an evening. Grab check, job done. Which is when one of the managers, suggested a tipple at The City Inn’s Millbank Bar.

“You’re sure that’s a good idea?” I asked.
“Yes, yes. I think it’s just the type of place YOU might like”.

I guess we looked the type to enjoy a capricious whisky or two following a nice meal. We were ushered upstairs to a scene resembling the Korova Bar laden with dim red lighting and a slightly more business feel to it. I ordered an 18-year-old Macallan just to deal with the change in scene. If the restaurant downstairs can be accused of playing it safe, the Millbank Bar has no such drawbacks – it’s a place to unwind and strategically placed lighting provides no reminders of the morning to come. The whisky selection here is not only second to none but there’s plenty of effort made to explain the types of whisky and ways to drink them.

By this stage, we started sampling the impressive cocktail menu and things got a bit blurry, which is why I’ll end the review here. You might stay for the lounge bar cocktails, but make it down for the fine food, if only as an excuse for a stroll along the Thames. All followed by lots of water and groveling apologies to my editor in the morning...
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Food

City Café (in the City Inn Westminster) features contemporary cuisine served in stylish surroundings.

Updated 26/03/2012

Additional Information

  • Cuisine Type: European
  • Dress Code: Not Specified
  • Group: City Inn

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