28 Shad Thames,
London, SE1 2YD
Tel. 020 7378 7031
Food type: Modern Eclectic
Food rating: 4/10
Nearest tube: London Bridge/ Tower Hill
Website: Blueprint Cafe
Note: Jeremy Lee now cooks at Quo Vadis. As such this review is of historical interest.
Last Sunday had some pretty peculiar weather. It was such a sunny and hot day more akin to a summer when we are smack dab in the middle of autumn. With all the sunshine and clear blue skies it would have been a crime if we didn’t get out to enjoy it. Oh dear Lord… I’m sounding more and more like a Englishman talking about the weather!!!
With such lovely weather, we decided to take a nice stroll along the Thames and dine at one of the restaurants along the river. The Shad Thames area houses numerous restaurants, most of them under the D&D London Umbrella including Butler’s Wharf, Cantina del Ponte, Le Pont de la Tour and of course Blueprint Cafe. For the non-locals, Blueprint cafe may indeed be difficult to locate while passing by. It is located on top of the Design Museum with only a small, and easily miss-able sign, acknowledging its existence above. Getting to the restaurant requires a moderate amount of exercise up two flights of stairs. Not one for the angina sufferers for sure…
The restaurant itself is minimally decorated with various photos and jars of pickles adorning the walls of the restaurant. With simple furnishing and a wooden floor, the restaurant has that cafe feel to it. The elevated location of the restaurant does allow for some spectacular views of the Thames and Tower Bridge. To that end, there is a small pair of blue binoculars placed at each table for customers to toy around with while waiting for their food to arrive.
Jeremy Lee, the Head Chef at Blueprint Cafe since 1995, is probably best known for his appearances on BBC’s Great British Menu (Season 2) where he defeated Nick Nairn in the Scottish regionals. While his food is best described as Modern Eclectic, it stays true to his roots, as reflected in his menu, by showcasing some of Scotland’s best ingredients such as Arbroath smokies, Grouse and Galloway beef. The a la carte menu is afford-ably priced with starters (£5-8), mains (£12.50-19.50) and desserts (£5-7.50). There is also a special Sunday lunch set menu with two options for each course priced at £15 and £20 for 2 and 3 courses respectively. The wine list is small but sensibly priced with as many New world as French options. Mark-ups are surprisingly modest given London’s eye-gouging prices with glasses of house wine available for £4.50 and plenty of bottles available for under £20.
There was a selection of 3 types of Bread – White, Brown or Raisin. Not the best selection but were passable nonetheless. The raisin bread was pretty enjoyable but evidently brought in (which was subsequently confirmed by a waiter after much difficulty in communication) although the white bread was rather chewy and lacked warmth. (4/10)
Chicken Liver Pâté, Pickles & Toast
I opted for the set lunch menu as I was pretty keen on some good old fashioned roast pork. I began my lunch with Chicken Liver Pâté, Pickles & Toast. A scoop of the smooth and rich pâté prompted J to cheekily ask me if I was having Chocolate ice cream. This was indeed well made pâté, packed full of livery flavour and was accompanied by some pickled baby gherkins. It was evident that a lot of care had been taken in the pickling process as the pickles had a good texture and just about the right amount of saltiness to it. The toasted ciabatta was unfortunately burnt (conveniently on the non-presentation side) which was very sloppy indeed. (4/10)
A Broth of Arbroath Smokie, Leek & Potatoes
J’s broth of Arbroath Smokie, leek & potatoes was wonderful. For those who are unaware, Arbroath smokies are a type of lightly smoked haddock from the town of (you guessed it) Arbroath, Scotland and traditionally come in pairs. Whilst this dish was described as a broth it is more akin to a soup in terms of thickness and the fact that the fish and vegetables were left in. (A broth is specifically a clear liquid where by the meat, vegetable, bones etc. are strained out) Classifications aside, the soup… I mean broth was thoroughly enjoyable with huge chunks of subtlely smoked fish interspersed with floury potatoes and soft, tender leeks. (5/10)
Salt Pigeon, Beetroot, Blackcurrant & Watercress
We also shared a starter of Salt Pigeon, Beetroot, Blackcurrant & Watercress. This was an interesting take on a warm pigeon salad although it should be classified as ‘work-in-progress’. While the dish is conceptually ingenious from a presentation perspective (oooh look at the different shades of claret) there were major flaws in the taste department. For starters (pardon the pun), the salt pigeon was underseasoned – it was only when reviewing the menu again did I recall that the pigeon was cured. Secondly, the beetroot and blackcurrant combination was simply too sweet and was properly balanced by an acidic component. Case in point, the ‘ribena’ dressing completely overwhelmed the peppery watercress and the cured pigeon. (2/10)
Roast Middlewhite Pork, Lentils & Herbs
My plate of Roast Middlewhite Pork, Lentils & Herbs was also rather disappointing. A slice of pork crackling sat on top of 3 slices of roasted pork shoulder and lentils with a liberal sprinkling of chopped parsley. The pork was tepid and could have done with a touch more seasoning. The crackling, was well seasoned and had a good crunch to it, although a small portion of it was soggy. Again this is sloppy and should have been spotted and never allowed to leave the kitchen. Trim it if you must, but serving soggy crackling is simply criminal. The saving grace was the lentils which were nicely cooked with a mixture of vegetables and bacon. (3/10)
Hake, Potatoes, Mussels and Green Sauce
J’s Hake, Potatoes, Mussels and Green Sauce was enjoyable according to her but I am not a big fan of Hake. The individual components of the dish were properly cooked in particular the mussels and nicely balanced by the green sauce (4/10)
Almond Tart, Fig, Quince & Jersey Cream
The highlight of my meal was my Almond Tart, Fig, Quince & Jersey Cream. Here’s a dark secret of me – I am not the biggest fan of desserts and I almost never finish my pudding. I however, loved every crumbly morsel of the tart which was topped with some sliced figs, toasted almonds and a nice dollop of clotted cream. The dessert was indeed a triumph in every single aspect – it had picturesque presentation, good textures, sweet and sour balanced perfectly by the thick and rich clotted cream and most importantly enough was more-ish. I will be remembering this pud for a long time to come. (Whilst typing out this review, I am salivating just thinking of the tart). (8/10)
Chocolate Brownie, Fudge Sauce & Vanilla Ice Cream
J’s Chocolate Brownie, Fudge Sauce & Vanilla Ice Cream was a less resounding success although she did like it a lot. She is after all a choc-a-holic. Dark secret #2: I don’t mind chocolate in small amounts, but eating loads of it makes me ill – this would have been chocolate overload for me. No, one small bite is not sufficient for me to give a fair score.
Lunch at Blueprint Cafe was indeed a nice way to enjoy a long, sunny Sunday afternoon. The cooking here shows glimpses of pure talent (arbroath smokies ‘soup’, almond tart) although its consistency remains in question – the salt pigeon salad was so poorly constructed at times I wonder how it managed to leave the drawing board. Service was able and allowed us plenty of time to enjoy the lovely views and the pleasant weather. They did forget to bill me for my mains which I (stupidly some might say) had to remind them of.