Bank House in Chislehurst: A friendly neighbourhood restaurant serving up small but mighty dishes
It’s true that Bank House in Chislehurst is a gorgeous space. The wine bar and small-plates kitchen is the shining product of the painstaking work of designers and specialists of all kinds. Original rented artworks are hung throughout; polished surfaces gleam with warm light; soft furnishings are plentiful. It doesn’t feel surface-level or inauthentic, either. The seamless wallpaper has been themed around the duck pond opposite the venue, and represents Bank House in a nutshell – connections formed from founder Stuart Gillies’s impressive high-powered work establishing concepts for the international Gordon Ramsay Group have been put to work forging a grass-roots, organic, local wine-bar that focuses on complementing and enhancing the London suburb.
Gillies explains that this isn’t a hyper-competitive venture: Bank House knows its offering – fantastic wine and thoughtful small dishes, put together with well-sourced produce. He isn’t looking to shove any other spots off the high-street, nor draw flocks of diners away from upscale central-London restaurants. His contribution to Chislehurst (his own backyard, it’s worth pointing out) is about building a friendly neighbourhood space, a far cry from stuffy dining for the elite.
We are guided through a well-curated, if modest, wine list by our server and slip into chit-chat about her time with the project to date. It feels warm, as if the barriers and stiff roles of restaurant programming have melted away. Over by the books, Stuart personally welcomes all new guests, the majority clearly being local regulars. We drink Rhone Valley red (Estezargues Cuvee des Galets, 2018), which arrives cool and clean on the palate with jumping berry and spice, and Rioja (Vina Ilusion Tempranillo, 2017) which unravels with buoyant black fruit and leather. Both wines are either certified organic or heavily sourced from organic vineyards, and served on tap using award-winning KeyKeg technology, as are the pre-made cocktails. Bank House makes a point of being a bar first and a kitchen second, and this shows in the customer experience being led by drinks and service.
When it comes to food, we open with Sweetcorn Fritters with Sweetcorn Puree, Maple and Lime and Warm Goat’s Cheese with Honey and Thyme. The goat’s cheese is crowned with a paper-thin caramelised crust – wonderfully executed – and collapses like velvet on the tongue. The sweetcorn fritters don’t leap out at us, it must be said, but it’s clear that the mix of textures and the citrus garnish come from a sophisticated palate. We follow with Buttermilk Chicken with Barbecue Sauce and Blue Cheese. These moreish chunks disappeared quickly, the barbecue sauce light and fragrant, dodging the common over-acidity and bringing the true smokiness of the charcoal grill.
The last of our savoury plates are the ‘Nduja on Toast and Aged Beef Fillet with Baby Onion and Red Wine, arriving from the kitchen as soon as they are ready. The ‘nduja is uncompromisingly spicy, too much so for this reviewer to find it an enjoyable experience, but this might not be the norm. Perhaps as a savoury snack to pair with beer, this may well find its place among customers, but without mention of its heat on the menu, it may result in some red faces.
The beef fillet is our last morsel: slices of premium tenderloin that fall apart beautifully, washed over with a rich, lip-smacking sauce. The preparation of the meat is flawless, producing a real treasure that has us sighing with delight – however, the dry crunchy onions sprinkled on top risk cheapening a fantastic cut of meat.
We close off the evening with perhaps the finest dish among the lot, Gingerbread Cheesecake with Blood Orange Sorbet. As far as desserts go, this is excellent: a tour of different textures, from the biscuit base, through the silken cheesecake, to the cool, biting sorbet. Every facet is tailored and balanced to great result. The flavours are bright and leave us wowed.
We leave Bank House without full bellies, but having basked in the wonderful space they’ve created, and having been looked after by a group of talented, friendly people. As Gillies plans his next project and hands over the reins, the success of this wine bar will depend on the continuity of the warm handshake at the door and the welcoming atmosphere that they’ve worked so hard to establish.
Photos: Kathryn Dingle (except header)
To book a table at Bank House, at Bank House 11 High Street Chislehurst BR7 5AB, call 020 8249 0461 or visit their website here.