A reliable haunt for the suits of Westminster, Bank is sleek, loud and a little bit expensive. Just how they like it.
Bank is something of a strange beast; it feels a little like it's been squeezed into its handy location right next to the Crown Plaza St. James. Everything about it certainly looks impressive, with swathes of immaculate whites, pristine glassware, plum leather seating and a very attractive conservatory (complete with quaint views of the hotel’s small courtyard) combining to serve up enough sheen to keep the business lunches flowing. It’s actually getting to the spacious conservatory that feels a little claustrophobic, with a long corridor squeezing you past private dining rooms with semi clear windows that make them look just a little bit like meeting rooms. It just about manages to get away with it though, thanks primarily to an arrestingly sleek décor, and that impressive area to the rear.
Bank is a firm favourite with the suits, so lunchtimes are rammed with diners battling it out to whack it on expenses, whilst evenings see after work drinks extending to dinner. It certainly has a vibrant atmosphere - perhaps too much so - with a din that can rise to a level that makes conversing with the sometimes quiet staff difficult. Luckily, the animated chatter is appreciative and happy, which is certainly a better alternative to any hushed tones of reverence.
The menu doesn't offer anything particularly innovative, but what it does, it does very well indeed, so don’t let the slightly lofty prices (or the lack of brown bread) put you off – they certainly don’t anyone else.
It’s a menu for all seasons, with firm British favourites sitting next to Greek mezze, tastes of the Orient, pastas and that old favourite, the chicken tikka masala. Don’t let that put you off either though, because as the starters prove, there’s obvious care into what comes out of the kitchen. A spiced parsnip and apple soup (£5) is well balanced and generous, even if it could do with a little more body and spice, whilst the chilli squid Thai noodle salad (£8.50) is generously spiced, with clean flavours of chilli and ginger cutting through perfectly tempurad squid.
Mains are equally good, with a fragrant and beautifully presented Malayan spiced chicken breast (£17.25) cooked nicely and served with sweet potato in a coconut and lime broth. It’s not quite as impressive as the lamb shank though (£18.50), slow cooked to fall off the bone just as easily as it should and served with loads of root vegetables that retain bite and swim in a deliciously rich jus. Sides are certainly adequate, with a creamy mash (£3.95) and a pak choi with chilli and garlic (£4.35) being particularly good.
Desserts keep things more British, with apple pies and custard, sticky toffee puddings with butterscotch sauce and chocolate fudge puddings with vanilla ice cream coming in at £7.25 each. At those prices they better be good, and thankfully they are: a motto for the menu, perhaps.
An excellent wine list keeps most of the diners happy, and boasts that pleasing knack of sweeping from the affordable to the relatively extravagant without being overlong. An organic Chilean Chardonnay is available by the glass (£5.50/£7.50) or by the bottle (£22.50), and its fruity, clean and crisp notes mark it out as pretty good value. The house red is a decent Italian merlot at £23.95, on a list that rises to a £135 Rioja, but if you really want to impress (or are on good terms with accounts) then you can splash out on £160 Dom Perignon Reserve or £295 Cristal, both from 2000.
The Last Word
Solid, if unspectacular, Bank is one of those places that certainly has enough good things to make it worth heading to, including food that just about justifies the ever so slightly elevated prices.