Diners at the front tables of Chino Latino have a stunning view
To the untutored this location might not seem the best, being on the ‘other side of the river’. However, it has great transport links, being set between Waterloo and Vauxhall stations, with fleets of convenient red buses running past the door – or they would do if Chino Latino wasn’t on the 1st floor (that’s the 2nd floor if you are from the US, but let’s not get into a discussion of the divisiveness of the English language).
Chino Latino is part of the Park Plaza Riverbank hotel complex on the Albert Embankment. This river defence was built by celebrated engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette between 1866 and 1869. Albert Embankment was intended to protect low-lying areas of Lambeth from flooding, while also providing a new road to bypass local congested streets. Yes, there were traffic jams way back then, too!
Those strolling along the Albert Embankment, and the diners at the front tables of Chino Latino, have the advantage of a stunning view. Firstly there is the tree-fringed River Thames, but then also the Houses of Parliament and several London bridges. The vista is reflected on the mirror ceiling of the restaurant to create something of a moving mural of avenue and water.
Chino Latino is a multi-award winning Pan-Asian restaurant with nods towards South America. The restaurant is light and airy and furnished with European techno flair. The winged armchairs are out of the Jetsons (cartoon of the 1960s). The only hints to the ethnicity of the cuisine are the sushi bar and chopsticks on the tables.
There is an impressive bar serving a good selection of bespoke cocktails. I ordered a Cinnamon Martini of delicate and aromatic home-infused cinnamon vodka, Grappa, honey, fresh lime juice and orange bitters. Granted, this isn’t a visual stunner but it’s a winner if one is looking for a hint of exotic spice. Try the rum and Champagne cocktails too.
This style of Pan-Asian/South American food has become increasingly popular of late and it’s easy to see why. It lacks the rigid formality of Japanese meals, it’s lighter than many other Asian cuisines, and it’s almost always attractive. It’s a fusion but it’s been around long enough now to be considered a hybrid.
We chose the Rengin Tasting Menu as it offered a good overview on both style and substance of the dishes offered here. The plates arrived in pairs and each one was thoughtfully presented. Amarillo maki roll was fresh and light, and served with the traditional condiments of ginger and wasabi. Great taste but I would suggest that the plate could be smaller or a couple of extra rolls could be added to give a more generous-looking starter. The bright yellow sauce dotted with white looked attractively 1950s retro and therefore rather trendy.
Seabass Tiradito was a ceviche-style fish dish and served on hand-made pottery with a garnish of bright blue flowers. Refined and mild. Wagyu beef Taquitos were crisp cones with a delicious meaty and well-seasoned filling. Outstanding! Calamari was crunchy and bejewelled with cherry tomato. Bacon-wrapped dates were decadent dim sum.
The main courses were substantial and moreish and should be signature dishes here. Sirloin steak on hot rocks was bound to be a striking and theatrical preparation, and it was. The rocks were indeed hot, and sizzled with temptation when hit with the garlic sauce. The meat was tender and moist and there was plenty of it, too!
Chilean sea bass was a chunky vision of lacquered white and flaky fish. I am sure the able chef could have made a sports shoe into a culinary triumph with his basting sauce. The fish looked enticing and the taste didn’t disappoint.
But the highlight of the meal for me was prawn tempura. This was the best tempura of any stripe I have tasted in a good long while. Yes, I have been offered tempura in many a quality Japanese restaurant in London but this tempura was really memorable. The prawns were large, the batter was grease-free and superbly crunchy, showing all the elements of a traditional tempura batter! If I have time to eat only one dish here then it would have to be the prawn tempura.
A dessert platter of fresh tropical fruits, sorbets, banana mousse, fruit salad, and coconut cream for which to die, finished this meal which had been a positive surprise in every regard.
To be honest I wasn’t expecting an amazing experience. Probably a good one but nothing over which to coo. I was delighted with the food and cocktails as well as the location, although perhaps I would not have been quite so enthused if we hadn’t had a window table for the first visit. I say ‘first visit’ as I suspect there will be more, and I won’t care where I sit for the second one.
Park Plaza Riverbank
18 Albert Embankment
London SE1 7TJ
Phone: 020 7769 2500
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018