Crowne Plaza Hotel, 45 Buckingham Gate, Westminster, London SW1E 6BS
However, time has moved on. The St James Court is now the Crowne Plaza London St James Hotel and Suites (Royal Taj Hotel Group). And it has a superb restaurant, Bank Westminster (modern French), right next door. And at least 2 great Indian Nouveau restaurants nearby.
As you enter Bank Westminster restaurant, to your right is the Zander bar, ahead is the restaurant itself and to the left a doorway leading into the very grand Crowne Plaza reception. On our arrival the Zander bar was hoppin' with a very lively crowd of people. Since we were here to review the restaurant, we avoided the temptation to boogie, and proceeded down the long silver corridor out into a splendid spacious semi-circular area with large pillars under huge globe lights (a kinda 30's feel). Spacious but intimate, this would be a good area for entertaining business clients, as my guest from Ernst and Young has done in the past.
Walking through this dining area to another, large glass walled dining conservatory, we were seated with a view of St James's Courtyard. In the summer, Bank customers can enjoy dining in this wonderful example of Victorian architecture, which, being a quadrangle provides a pleasant, sunny and shaded dining experience. Even on the snowy winter evening of our visit, we found the courtyard view, with a beautiful stone fountain centrepiece and decoratively lit trees, very relaxing. Clearly with 3 dining environments and private rooms, the Bank at Westminster has the flexibility to handle any kind of dining occasion.
Matthew Dawson (The Savoy, QE2, Quaglino's) heads the large kitchen that runs beneath the entire length of the restaurant. His band of chefs starts work when most of us are still in bed, preparing every recipe fresh for the day.
We commenced dining with Cornish Dressed Crab with Avocado Dressing and Thai Spiced Clam Risotto with Baby Spinach and Basil. The crab was well presented (as were all of the dishes) and a very nice starter. The risotto seemed mild at first but had a delayed action hidden bite, which left a sustained sense of spiciness. A great start to the evening.
My main dish, Braised Pigs Trotter with Veal Sweetbreads, Wild Mushrooms and Chicken Farce, was a little disappointing. This was in fact a pig's trotter stuffed with the meats. I found the trotter and sweetbreads a little too fatty for my taste, though the veal and chicken were delicious. Martin had Grilled Lobster with Garlic Butter and Chips. He reported this as being cooked to perfection and extremely easy to eat, coming away from the shell with just a fork. Perversely, I missed the chance to dodge flying lobster parts while Martin missed the chance to fight with the shell - sometimes a restaurant just can't win! Having said that, we must report that the lobster was truly excellent.
On to desserts. I'd mentioned to Martin that I couldn't believe how many restaurants offer that awful traditional British dish, bread and butter pudding, these days. On asking for a recommendation from our lovely South African waitress Zaneta, you guessed it, she highly recommended the Orange and White Chocolate Bread Pudding. In spite of having my foot in my mouth, my philistine prejudice proved to be delightfully unfounded. This sweet was delicious and beautifully presented. I'm a convert! Martin's Oriental Rice Pudding with Star Anise Ice Cream was also a winner.
At long last we rounded off the meal with liqueurs. My Kummel (according to the Dutch, first distilled in Holland during the late 16th century), a sweet, colourless liqueur flavoured with caraway seed, cumin and fennel settled my palate nicely and warmed me for the cold journey home.
So what can we say about Bank, Westminster? As we sipped our liqueurs, and considered a visit to the Zander bar, we suddenly realised it was midnight. We'd enjoyed the meal and service so much that time just disappeared on us. That pretty much says it all.
Bank Westminster is a flexible, well-managed, friendly restaurant, with a vibrant club attached. Ideal for entertaining business clients, and very convenient for travellers who want to be near Victoria Station, or who position themselves close to Buckingham Palace, by staying in the Crowne Plaza (attached) or in the top quality Rubens Hotel (just around the corner).
|Lunch||Monday - Friday||12:00 - 15:00|
|Dinner||Monday - Saturday||17:30 - 23:30|
|Zander Bar Hours:|
|Monday - Tuesday||11:00 - 23:00|
|Wednesday - Friday||11:00 - 01:00|
|Saturday||17:00 - 01:00|
Bank Restaurants Online
Wally Robertson, January 2003