The Sign of the Don in Bank
England has had a longstanding love affair with sherry, port and all things fortified for as long as anyone can remember. And The Don restaurant in Bank has been an integral part of that relationship since the 1700s when the original George Sandeman, or the Don as he was known, used the site to store none other than port and sherry. The spot was a hub for drinks and generous selections of food for many years until 1969 when it was retired as a working cellar. Fast forward forty-something years later and it’s been reopened by another George Sandeman, family of the original Don. With the same hospitable and lively feel, it already appears to be a hit with the city crowds of London.
The evening was kicked off with glasses of Laurent Perrier and not long after, the canapés arrived – the first being golden curls of pork crackling, wonderfully puffed and crunchy, albeit in need of a touch more seasoning. Following these was the meltingly soft octopus with its spicy and lightly smoked paprika dusting, and the classic combination of blini with smoked salmon and crème fraîche, which was tasty but needed a bigger hit of acidity. The quiet scene-stealer had to be the whole Ibérico ham, sliced à la minute: it was perfectly nutty and creamy and with almost as much fat as uncured meat, it was nothing short of indulgent. The decadence didn’t end there – the rich and velvety foie gras on crisp Russian-style bread topped with a tart port jelly and truffle slice made the perfect bite. The deep-fried olives stuffed with goat’s curd were exceptionally tasty, and the ham and mushroom croquettes were both wonderfully crunchy but lacking a little salt. Last of the savouries were the open-faced tomato and anchovy sandwiches with homemade bread and the delicately fishy deep-fried cod croquette.
As if the food and the vibe weren’t enough, the drinks churned out of the bar were very good too. The Pomenade of gin, apple juice, cucumber and pomegranate was easy on the eye and the tastebuds, and the iconic Don Martini included dry gin (as expected) as well as sherry and citrusy Lilet liqueur – a playful twist on a classic.
The evening finished on a sweet note as the chocolate and caramel tarts (topped with gold leaf, naturally) had bitter dark chocolate and a wonderfully rich, almost roasted caramel, and the custard tarts, similar to a Portugese Pastei de Nata, had a delicate orange and vanilla flavour and chewy pastry.
The Don can certainly expect to regain its post as one of London’s hotspots. The venue’s original sherry barrels surround the cool interior and impressive bar and give the room an inviting feel. This is definitely the place to enjoy a glass (or two) of a heart-warming fortified drink.
The Sign of the Don: 51/60
Photos: Monika Jørgesen
To book a table at The Sign of the Don, 21 St Swithin’s Lane London EC4N 8AD, call 020 7626 2606 or visit here.