The name intrigued me. It was either a reference to the bend in the River Thames at Bankside or an indication that this restaurant takes pride in its meat dishes. As it turned out it was both.
OXBO restaurant at the Hilton on Bankside has style. The foyer exuded character with contemporary furnishings that I covet. Nothing bland and chain-familiar here. The restaurant is nothing like any other hotel restaurant I have ever visited, either. This also had character but with a capital C and writ large.
There is a wall of hunting trophies, well, at first glance. But then one realises that they don’t make frogs that size – and then one takes a closer look at the others: well-executed, mercifully fake and humorously quirky animalesque heads. The ceiling is low creating a cosy ambiance. Wood-clad walls introduce rustic tones and judicious use of screens and floor finishes create more intimate spaces in this otherwise expansive restaurant.
We were here for Sunday lunch. In fact it was Mother’s Day so the place was buzzing with families enjoying the occasion. These groups included impeccably well-behaved children, which just goes to show that good manners are not a thing of the past.
The Sunday lunch format is a self-service buffet for both starters and desserts but with the main course being presented at the table. I noted that even with the restaurant running at full capacity the buffet stations never had queues of waiting diners. The more formal table service made the lunch an occasion. Staff here are friendly and attentive and there were plenty of them.
I first met Chef Paul Bates a number of years ago when he worked at ‘another place’. He has roved the ranges in Mayfair and other smart neighbourhoods and has impeccable culinary credentials. I had high expectations – OXBO didn’t disappoint, and it seems a great vehicle for this man’s talents. The open kitchen might even allow a few moments of chat with Chef Paul, although on this Sunday he was taking the spring air on the rugby field.
The menu for Sunday lunch isn’t long. People will be looking for traditional for this particular meal. The starter table held seafood aplenty and there were hints of Asia with Sashimi of Tuna, Salmon and Swordfish with associated Japanese condiments. For carnivores there was a spread of cold meats which included Smoked Duck Breast and Lychee Salsa. Gin and Lime Marinated Halibut was light and refreshing – colour and vibrant flavours to excite the taste buds.
We are famed for Sunday roasts in this country and I can recommend the beef. Roasted joint of Gloucestershire beef served with a puffed Yorkshire pudding taking centre stage, duck-fat roasted potatoes and seasonal vegetables completing this very British Sunday lunch. There is a Bottomless Sunday Roast on offer, which includes a three-course meal and unlimited Prosecco, but I chose a Malbec which, although young, displayed all the classic expressions of Argentina’s national grape variety.
Fish lovers are taken care of with the best of the catch. It might be hake, but on this occasion my guest chose a moist cod steak; and there is chicken, and a vegetarian alternative. Perhaps the younger members of the party might prefer to graze on the starters and the cheese platter and then dive into desserts.
Those sweets were perfectly-formed jewels. It seems they change on the artistic whim of the pastry chef, or on the availability of ingredients, but on our visit we were tempted with miniature chocolate and caramel tarts, raspberry mousses, sponges, trifles, cookies, candies and macarons.
OXBO would seem to have a sound future. It’s only been open a few months but it’s been praised for its quality of food and reasonable prices. It’s great value for money and it is, quite frankly, a splendid place for Sunday lunch. Its location makes it ideal not only for locals but for those who want lunch and then an afternoon on the river, on the Eye or shopping.
Hilton London Bankside
2-8 Great Suffolk Street
London SE1 0UG
Visit OXBO here
Phone: 020 7593 3900
Monday – Wednesday: 06:30 – 11:00 and noon – 22:30
Thursday – Saturday: 06:30 – 11:00 and noon – 23:00
Sunday: 06:30 – 11:00 and noon – 22:30
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018