Occupying the gloriously bright space which used to be London's Design Museum is the Blueprint Café – Toby Keel paid a visit.
This summer the billionaire financier Joe Lewis decided to moor his £113 million superyacht, Aviva, on the bank of the River Thames near Tower Bridge. The spot he chose happens to be immediately adjacent to the Blueprint Café – and while we have no idea whether Britain’s 25th-richest man has yet popped in for lunch or dinner, we’d thoroughly recommend that he does.
That Lewis chose this mooring says a lot for the view from this first floor restaurant, housed in what used to be London’s Design Museum. It’s almost addictive gazing across the Thames, watching the boats putter beneath one of the great achievements of Victorian engineering – so much so that it’s all too easy to drift off and ignore your companion in favour of the goings on.
Thankfully, the food will bring you right back to your surroundings. Chef patron Mini Patel has worked with the likes of Gordon Ramsay, Marco Pierre White and Angela Hartnett, and was head chef at The Pointer in Brill before taking over the Blueprint Café back in Spring. His stated aim is to provide brilliant food without formality, at prices which mean that you don’t need to be a billionaire to enjoy it. On all three counts it succeeds incredibly well.
A starter of spiced Cornish lamb croquettes was a superb combination of texture and taste, and beautifully presented; the plate looked like a sort of fantasy desert-scape with moons of preserved apricot and chickpea and a tower of pickled squash.
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That flair even extended to the smoked salmon. The quality of the raw materials is beyond reproach – it’s hand cured by London fishmonger H. Forman & Son, who smoke fish as well as anyone, anywhere – and the organisation of garnish and treacle bread was perfectly done.
Main courses were just as pretty, particularly the Lancashire chicken, served with air-dried ham and girolle mushrooms, dressed with startlingly green broccoli. It also came with a potato gratin, though we ordered some ‘naughty chips’ as well, accompanied by hollandaise sauce. Oh boy. Very nice they were too.
The other main dish, ‘Jimmy Butler’s Pork Chop’ (sorry Jimmy, we didn’t mean to steal your lunch), was just as tasty if not quite so beautiful, but came with a special ingredient: Mini’s ‘Bits and Bobs sauce’, served in its own miniature copper pan. The chef himself gladly came over and chatted to us about it, and even rattled off the list of ingredients for this tangy, punchy, fascinating concoction – there were so many that if we listed them here, you’d be swiping down this page for several minutes.
After such joys in generous portions, we were all set to head off into the South Bank sunshine – but then made the mistake of eyeing the dessert menu ‘just to have a look’.
As Oscar Wilde almost once said, I can resist anything except treacle tart; my companion felt the same about the lemon and elderflower set cream with strawberries and meringue. Both proved a (Tower) bridge too far: we both spent the next few hours able to do little more than waddle along while groaning. It was well worth it; we’ll both be back.
Blueprint Café, Shad Thames, London SE1. Starters and desserts from £5 to £12; mains £15 to £25; set menu £15.95 for two courses, £19.95 for three. Book on 020 7378 7031 or at www.blueprintcafe.co.uk.
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