A Blueprint for success

Saturday, February 02nd , 2013


The Blueprint Café (pictured) is on the bank of the Thames above the Design Museum, with a great view over Tower Bridge. Plenty of restaurants with a view are lazy affairs, knowing the view itself will pull in the punters, but The Blueprint Café never fell into this trap. For years it had the talented Jeremy Lee at the helm, who is now at Quo Vadis, and the restaurant is now run by Mark Jarvis. He produced an excellent lunch on my visit, even making his own bread from scratch. The dishes that I tried were interesting, attractive and well executed, and all at a modest price. You can definitely do much, much worse if you fancy a meal with a nice view in London.

Hawksmoor carved out a reputation as a superior steak house in its first incarnation, serving excellent quality meat and offering a kindly priced wine list. Its success allowed expansion, and we now have the fourth site in London, this the biggest of the lot at 235 seats overlooking Regent Street. At this branch they have made the welcome move of focusing on fish just as much as meat, teaming up with Mitch Tonks to supply high quality fish from Cornwall. Both the fish and the steak that we sampled was of good quality and carefully cooked, and indeed it was hard to fault the cooking at all, with accurate seasoning and precisely cooked vegetables.  However the price is really high by the time you have added side dishes, and at this price level you could easily eat some much more elaborate food, even in central London. Certainly the formula seemed successful, with even a Sunday night very busy, so they have clearly come up with a successful formula, but it seemed to me a lot of money for what appeared.

The Malt House has just opened, a pub run by Claude Bosi of Hibiscus, his second such venture – the other is the Fox and Grapes in Wimbledon. This seemed promising, with an ex head chef of Hibiscus in charge of the kitchens at a pub. There is no doubt that, in the right hands, pub food can be special. The Hardwick with Steve Terry cooking is special, and The Empress in Hackney also features an ex-head chef of a Michelin starred place, to say nothing of The Harwood Arms nearby, which has earned a star of its own by serving gutsy, hearty pub food with a level of care and attention most restaurants can only dream of. Yet although there were some good dishes, notably a warm chicken terrine and also a superior burger, not everything worked. Carrots were overcooked and cabbage rather too salty even to my taste. The price point is distinctly higher than The Empress, with extras quite aggressively priced – if you want bread this is £4, for example, and bought in at that. I also felt that the menu was not quite that of a pub, not quite that of a restaurant, with rather challenging desserts and several dishes with unusual elements. It was early on, and perhaps the place will settle in, but for me it didn’t quite work.

Elite Traveler is a luxury travel magazine, whose website was re-launched this week. It has a new resident fine dining expert who seems to know his stuff: 

Next week I go in search of a decent biryani.