Vauxhall may not seem an obvious place to find a riverside bar on a sunny day, but there are a couple – Aqua River Brasserie and The Riverside. They are directly on the river in St George Wharf, and are sun traps when the weather is good, however they are both rather soulless. I would pass them by and go for a more quirky venue, namely Tamesis Dock a dutch barge permanently moored on the Thames, with a fabulous view of the Houses of Parliament.
Tamesis Dock is not that much of a gourmet experience (the menu is mainly wraps and burgers), it’s basically a floating pub, in a great location that regularly hosts live music events. It is opposite the Plaza Riverside hotel, which houses the rather good Chino Latino Restaurant, so my recommendation would be to have an inexpensive drink or two on the barge before heading over the road for dinner in Chino Latino.
For one week only Chino Latino at the Park Plaza Riverbank has a real view. They have temporarily moved the ground floor restaurant to the 1st floor, where from the Thames Suite you have unrestricted panoramic views of the River Thames and the Houses of Parliament.
Even without the view Chino Latino is always worth a visit, especially if they have a Top Table discount, this time it was only 25% off the a la carte menu, but I have seen deals of up to 50% here too.
However with the view, I have only one word to sum up the experience and that is “WOW!”. The Thames Suite is just stunning. With live music and well spaced out tables it just had so much going for it. If this were the normal restaurant, then Chino Latino I suspect would be a top London destination restaurant. Alas this is not the case – I guess that the Thames Suite as a banqueting room is probably too big a revenue generator to use as mere restaurant space. I am just so pleased to have been there for this one week only experience. Who would have thought a refurbishment standby location, could be so spectactular (especially on a wet bank holiday weekend).
The food wasn’t bad either. I especially enjoyed the duck with kumquats, the cheese stuffed pepper tempura, and the dessert platter.
The name does not really fit, I believe the Latino part is meant to apply to the bar which does have a reasonable range of “latin” cocktails. The bar is comfortable, but too big to be cosy and the service is rather slow. It’s fine if you’re not in a rush.
The food here used to be stunning, it’s not as good now, but the kitchen can still deliver some excellent dishes. The food is designed for sharing. We had a really good duck dish with kumquats, absolutely yummy. The grilled scallops were also excellent, and the sashimi served with homemade wasabi was a treat. They were a bit heavy handed with the salt though on a couple of other dishes, the ribs in particular were a problem.
The prices here are pretty steep, but if you can get a Top Table deal on the food (we got 40% off on our visit), they are more manageable. It is hard though not to overindulge on the cocktails – I would recommend the watermelon martini for dessert!
I would also recommend bringing a torch to read the menu as the lighting can be a problem at some of the tables.
UPDATE : September 2011 – Back again, one of the highlights of this meal was a Thai Curry (for sharing – as all the food here is), the presentation was very different and the dish itself was lovely. Seriously good Pan Asian food. My only real complaint is the room, which although atmospheric, fails on one of the most important aspects of restaurant dining – You must be able to read the menu. The font is too small and the lighting design is totally impractical