The chef at Bank House in Chislehurst is called Bobby Brown, which is the type of news that is like catnip to me. “I don’t think it’s the actual Bobby Brown, king of new jack swing, Grace,” Charles said wearily.
“It could be,” I argued. “Maybe he got tired of all that humpin’ around.”
“This Bobby Brown does flat iron steak with marrowbone and Marmite,” Charles said, ignoring me.
“Well, that’s his prerogative,” I gasped, by now weak with mirth.
It transpired that the man cooking my dinner at Bank House had never been a member of New Edition; he was, however, once former head chef at well-liked Tunbridge Wells restaurant The Kentish Hare. Last time I went to Tunbridge Wells, I was charged just short of £200 to stay one night in a Hotel Du Vin room so small, I had to edge around the bed to open the window. I ate at the quite lovely Don Giovanni on Calverley Road after fleeing the hotel when a request to move from a crap, creaky, draughty table was met with a blank “no”.
Thankfully, for me at least, one of the area’s best chefs seems to have now moved to Chislehurst, a suburban district of south-east London so charming that when I arrived on Saturday evening, having driven only a few short miles through the Blackwall Tunnel from my east London home, it felt like going on holiday. “The air is so clean! Let’s move to Chislehurst – this is a magical place!” I trilled as we slipped into a handsome, repurposed Victorian building. A former bank, it has recently been taken over by Stuart Gillies, who was once CEO of Gordon Ramsay’s entire fleet and, for that reason, feasibly has a photograph of me on his desk complete with scribbled devil horns and a Beelzebub tail.
Here, Gillies has gone out on his own and opened an incredibly decent neighbourhood wine bar and restaurant with which I really cannot quibble. Bank House is unpretentious, welcoming and warm-spirited. It’s a proper Saturday night, do-your-hair-pretty, put-on-a-shirt kind of place, with an eye for detail and an imaginative menu. Service is brilliant: well-trained, unobtrusive and cheery. And it does half portions of everything for kids on a weekend.
The skin-on, triple-cooked chips are doused in chicken-skin salt. The tiger prawns come with a harissa that will knock your socks off. It serves Royal Tokaji Late Harvest by the glass. You can’t ask for more than that from a local joint. Plates of smoked anchovies arrive swimming in good olive oil, while fiery ’nduja comes smeared on toasted sourdough. Baked crab gratin with crostini sits on the brief yet meaningful menu beside pork belly sliders with a well-judged pickled slaw. The house cocktail that evening was a brulee flip with cognac and hazelnut liqueur, which was fiendishly drinkable. Why don’t more local places do this?
There is a middle ground between “house burger” and “excruciating tasting menu”, and Bank House has nailed it. Buttermilk chicken appears in a crisp, tempura batter and smothered in barbecue sauce, blue cheese and spring onion. Said out loud, that sounds like a physical assault, but no, it was marvellous: just the right amount of sweetness, sharpness, crunch and smoothness. So much so that we consider ordering it again for pudding.
Fillet of plaice sits in a buttery sauce flecked with beetroot and minutely diced parmesan. Again, in the wrong hands this could be vile, but by this point I trusted chef Bobby Brown implicitly. The beetroot was sweet, the parmesan soft and salty, the plaice perfectly judged and a nice refuge from both extremes. I sense that Brown has many haywire ideas in the kitchen that the staff have learned just to go with.
By 8pm, the restaurant had filled up with couples on date nights, tables of blokes who once raved together but now prefer a Courvoisier and an early night, plus the local great and good. Bank House is the sort of place Rodney would take Cassandra in February for their 31st wedding anniversary. He’d whisk her eight miles down the A208 to somewhere a bit posh, but not too arsey. They’d have the Creedy Carver Duck and a side of what the menu calls “stealth fries” – they’re basically thin chips, thus named so you can eat them secretly without your metabolism knowing about them.
Bobby Brown is in residency in Chislehurst serving freshly baked bakewell tart with non-faffed-about-with, plain old clotted cream, and Madagascan vanilla cheesecake. The portions of both are quite healthy. Two can play that game.
• Bank House 11 High Street, Chislehurst BR7, 020-8249 0461. Open all week 11.30am-10.30pm (6pm Sun). About £30-35 a head; weekday set lunch £15, all plus drinks and service.
Source: Thanks https://www.theguardian.com/food/2020/jan/10/bank-house-restaurant-review-chislehurst-kent-grace-dent