The Park Tavern is large late Victorian pile of a pub situated on the Wandsworth approaches of the Merton road. It’s just around the ... Read Feature
OK I admit it, I have mixed views on fine dining or as it used to be called, haute cuisine. Sometimes it can provide a truly memorable experience, one which will live with you for years after. Other times you can find yourself the recipient of overly fussy food in too formal surroundings leaving you feeling uncomfortable or out of place.
It was therefore with a touch of ambivalence that I accepted an invitation for myself and the Delightful Dining Companion (DDC) to spend an evening at the recently opened View94 in Wandsworth riverside quarter. As it turned out, I needn’t have worried.
The riverside quarter for those who have never visited is located almost equidistant between Wandsworth town and East Putney stations. It’s a modern development that still looks pretty much brand spanking new though many of the buildings have been there now for over a decade.
It’s a quiet and attractive area with a mix of riverside apartments and small to medium sized offices. Every time I wander down there, I always think that it would be a pleasant place to work and that’s not just due to the fact that I could walk there in less than half an hour.
Though the area has been fairly recently redeveloped, there are parts of it, notably Prospect house that still have a slightly jaunty, nautical if not piratical air which is rather nice. My only issue is that when I say quiet, perhaps it is a bit too quiet, a complete world away from Wandsworth’s bustling old town and high street.
View94 itself has at the time of writing been open for about a month. It’s situated on the Thames path at Prospect quay, giving the bar and dining rooms excellent views over the river. The building itself has been home to a number of restaurants over the years including one of my favourites, local chain Ghillies.
The owners have taken the decision to split the restaurant into two distinct areas with the bar downstairs, this gives drinkers and more casual diners access to the outside areas including the riverside deck. The more formal dining room is situated upstairs, giving diners the slightly superior views over the river.
Upon arrival we were shown to a table in the bar initially for a cocktail. It was a lovely evening and both I and the DDC opted for something perhaps a bit prematurely summery. The DDC went for a View94 spritz, their take on an aperol spritz whilst I tried a Britony, though this was made with rather different ingredients the flavour was reminiscent but probably superior to a Negroni.
The bar wasn’t that busy when we arrived with only a couple of other small groups. It’s a nicely decorated area though, with a good sense of light and space. The bar and brunch menus are more casual than that offered in the main dining room, and appear to be good value. I can see the bar as being an attractive brunch/lunch destination for local office workers. I also feel that as the summer gets into swing this will prove to be a very nice destination for a couple of evening drinks, and whilst not cheap the cocktails are better value and better produced than many in the area.
Having drunk and enjoyed our cocktails we were escorted upstairs to the main dining room. Here the light and airy feel from downstairs is replicated and though plentiful, tables are not crammed together. Again the dining room that night wasn’t too busy, but I was interested to note that amongst the other diners there was already a number who were repeat visitors. Quite an achievement for somewhere that has open for as short a period of time as View94.
As we had been invited I felt that I should really give the staff the opportunity to show me their best stuff as it were. The DDC obviously felt no such compunction and therefore was able to order whatever she liked the look of.
I noticed that there was homemade smoked salmon on the menu and was sorely tempted to order it being a sucker for the stuff. On recommendation though I went for the creamed carrot soup with seared mackerel, The DDC loves both steak tartare and parmesan and seeing one being served with the other she couldn’t really say no.
The soup was really, really good. The odd seeming combination of the strong flavours of the fish being complement very well by the subtleties of the soup which was creamy and delicious. The DDC’s tartare when it appeared was like a little work of art, a crown of parmesan enclosing the tartare and egg yolk. She declared it excellent. I still regret though not ordering the smoked salmon as the arrival of that on other tables was an event in itself, with the dish covered by a jar holding in what I can only assume was fresh smoke. The diners who ordered it seemed very pleased with their choice.
Following staff guidance for the main course I opted for the wild boar ravioli with chestnut and lavender. The DDC again swayed by her own preferences chose the sashimi tuna loin. Now I like ravioli and I like wild boar, but this was not what I would have gone for normally, but the expert steering proved that sometimes you don’t know what you’re going to like.
When the mains arrived, I was struck by an almost immediately case of buyer’s remorse. The DDC’s tuna was presented as a good trencherman’s portion, whilst I only had 3 ravioli. I was thinking well who’s going to have to write this up. I needn’t have worried, as in so much less can be more and what I had was deceptively filling and I don’t know if I could have fitted much more in. It was a great dish, a combination of flavours of which the kitchen is justly proud. The DDC’s tuna also met with a very appreciative reception.
Surprisingly enough for someone who likes food as much as I do, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth. In the spirit of giving readers of this column a more complete vicarious experience I decided to go for broke and have a pudding. My choice was a cappuccino cheesecake, which arrive in a glass coffee cup and OK I have to say it, despite the excellence of the other dishes for me the highlight. It was a sweet, coffee flavoured gooey slab of deliciousness, with ice cream and meringue pieces. There was also the addition of gluten free cantucci which were sweet and delicious, a bit like an adult’s version of a farley’s rusk.
The DDC’s cheese selection deserves a paragraph to itself. Firstly it was one of the best selections of cheese I have seen in a long time and secondly probably the most generous serving. The DDC went for a full selection of hard cheese, soft cheese and blue cheese. I was surprised she was able to move after that.
All of the above was washed down with the DDC’s choice of wine, an Italian red which I was not familiar with prior to the evening a Barbera D’Asti, DOCG Sanbastian. For a wine that packed a surprising punch (about 14% of a punch if you must know,) the taste itself was lower key and went with all the courses surprisingly well.
A word on the wine list, yes there are some big hitters there and you could spend a lot of money should you choose, but you could just as well choose more moderately priced wines and still have in my mind just as a good an experience. There are a lot of well picked and reasonably priced bottles to decide between, and with prices starting from £18 you might even have two.
The bill when it came was about £130, so not a cheap night out no, but cheap for the experience and for fine dining a very definite yes. The location already makes this place a little bit of a gem, but the food makes it standout and if they keep to the standards that me and the DDC enjoyed I would urge you to give this a try. Don’t wait for a birthday, reunion or anniversary, go because it’s Wednesday or a third date or your cat got a promotion (those are easy you can hand them out yourself.)
My only quibble was with the music which I have to say was a bit like listening to a compilation entitle something like ‘Now that’s what I call massage,’ or ‘Music to teleshop by.’ Again that’s just a personal preference and in no way changes the warm feelings I have for the place.
Not being able to walk very far after such feast we stumbled about 100 yards up the road for a post prandial at the Cat’s Back, a local legend (yes there was a cat, and apparently he did come back, probably after his promotion or something.) It feels like a seaside pub, with large roaring fires. I treated myself to a digestive whisky whilst ordering the cab and reflected on what a wonderful and slightly unexpected evening we’d just had.
Till the next time, Rob.
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