D&D is a chain. I hate chains. However, there is merit in running a chain of independents; a co-operative, or federation, whereby economies of scale can be realised without interfering in the running of a good restaurant that attracts loyal customers.
My favourite D&D establishment is Cantina Del Ponte on Shad Thames in London. In good weather, the terrace makes it possibly the best location in the capital, with good decent food. However, I have recently been convinced to try their Blueprint Cafe a few doors down in the Design Museum. A lunchtime offer of £18 for two courses including a glass of wine sealed the deal.
It’s open and light and has a good view of the river; being a floor up also gives a good vantage of all the river traffic, which is actually facinating when you stop and look at it for a bit.
Warm homemade bread is served with a quinelle of butter, which, frankly, is over the top and pretentious – though, I will grant, does mean it isn’t rock solid at fridge temperature, so not entirely without merit.
The menu is broad and even afforded the special of the day, being whole plaice. My friend, who likes fish, avoided this because “plaice is a pain to eat” and instead opted for the risotto, after a starter of pork rillettes.
Portion size is good; the pork rilletes were almost main course size, half filling a Kilner jar. Lots of lovely pork taste, served with an onion chutney that complimented it well.
My endive, walnut and blue cheese salad was well devised and well executed, except for the fact the leaves had come straight from the fridge. Endive is a nice leaf, but it needs to be near room temperature for all of the flavours to be appreciated; the same with the cheese.
Onto the main course; my aged Hereford onglet (a cut of steak from, well, basically the diaphragm muscle) was well handled and well cooked (it’s not an easy cut to cook, as it is very tough), served with some lovely little sauteed potatoes and an extra side of flavourful carrots.
My friend’s pumpkin risotto was creamy and well executed, though from a texture perspective, could’ve done with some chunks of pumpkin stirred through to compliment the pumpkin seeds sprinkled on top.
In a moment of decadence, despite my usual feelings on the subject, I then opted for a cheeseboard; three wonderful British cheeses and a lovely damson jam, all let down by the fact they were served cold.
These two temperature related criticisms are not entirely their fault, it’s the fault of the European Commission and their draconian statist approach to ensuring food safety; but Blueprint Cafe demonstrably know what they are doing, this is clear – it’s just a shame they don’t have the balls to stick up for this and serve things how they know they should be as opposed to fully compliant with ridiculous laws.
However, I love Shad Thames….. it’s my favourite area of London, so much so I have an Art of it hanging in my bedroom. Cantina del Ponte only works half (if you’re lucky) the year, and Blueprint has done just enough to win the title for the other half….. I’ll just have to remember to avoid leaves, cheese and anything else that the Eurocrats want to meddle with.