Meal at Bōkan at Novotel

Meal at Bōkan at Novotel

at Novotel London Canary Wharf on 30 September 2017
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Finally, I get to Bōkan to do properly and try the big guns of a full blown dinner.  The venue and view was impressive as ever and a pleasure to be there for a Saturday evening.  The headline however, is that there were several aspects of the experience that meant that the overall polish was simply at a lower peg than finer dining venues in both food and overall delivery.  More details are at the expansion button but there were some good aspects such as the comparative value for money of the evening menu (£55 average for the a la carte menu and £65 for the tasting menu for 6 courses), some good duck and good signature mash.  Ultimately, it is quite a shift that will be needed to elevate this package to compete with the more serious options in London.  Having now done all the lunchtime, evening and bar menus at Bōkan and Bōkan Bar, it appears that that brunch and lunch here may be a better option, which is a surprise.

The tasting menu for the evening at Bōkan was 7 courses (incl coffee) for £65 and it was good to see another restaurant that does not mind breaking the usual rule of the tasting menu having to be taken by the whole table if one elects for such a menu.  Two at our table elected for the tasting menu whereas three opted for the usual a la carte.  The amuse bouche of tomato jelly, chick pea foam (more akin to a wet mousse) and basil was nicely presented but I simply didn’t think that the chickpea was a good pairing for the tomato and not in the same, silky league as the creamed foie gras with parmesan foam at L’Atelier.

The tasting menu for the evening at Bōkan was 7 courses (incl coffee) for £65 and it was good to see another restaurant that does not mind breaking the usual rule of the tasting menu having to be taken by the whole table if one elects for such a menu.  Two at our table elected for the tasting menu whereas three opted for the usual a la carte.  The amuse bouche of tomato jelly, chick pea foam (more akin to a wet mousse) and basil was nicely presented but I simply didn’t think that the chickpea was a good pairing for the tomato and not in the same, silky league as the creamed foie gras with parmesan foam at L’Atelier.

The salmon was enjoyed on the a la carte and the tasting menus, portion sizes adjusted accordingly and this was done well and the creme fraiche with caviar balancing out nicely with the quantities.  The tell-tale sign that the finesse what at a lower stake level were the potatoes which tasted good, but with slightly sloppy presentation.  The John Dory was likewise enjoyed on both menus and served with paimpoi coco beans, smoked peppers, octopus, squid, yuzu made a pleasant enough combination however, the smear of the pepper sauce resembled an attempt to be refined, but ultimately, had it been served more smooth and less lumpy and with more punch of flavour, this would have achieved the desired effect more.

The hen’s egg ravioli was decorated in a mound of foam for visual effect and underneath, the pasta was pleasant enough once all components were found.  The duck main was probably one of the highlights as had a very good quality of meat and was done very well.  The other parts of sweet potato, miso and damsen I thought were well selected and made for a good, overall flavour.  The obligatory creamed mash and fries were obviously good to have as a bonus, with the mash itself being a beautifully done version as noted on my previous visit.  The lamb was passable but sadly lacked the impact that it could have otherwise had if one compares to Gravetye Manor or Adams for example and was simply not quite in the league of those just mentioned.

In a more positive slant to my previously had brunch, desserts were well presented with some interesting combinations such as matcha (green tea) and coconut, tiramisu ice cream with chocolate and cheese cake ice cream to go with figs.  The pina colada ice sorbet to go with the pineapple pavlova was probably the highlight of these desserts.  Pleasing as these were, again, there was just a degree of finesse that was evidently needed to lift these in to the more notable culinary experiences available.

Above the food, there were also tell-tale signs about this experience that were noticed.  Some waiters interrupted the table conversation immediately when presenting dishes as they did not wish to wait, some plates were taken and then moments later replaced by the next dishes which almost overlapped (this is a basic thing to avoid), there was a long wait at the beginning for the bread, an order of sides was forgotten and service was slightly pushy (rushed) at the beginning.

Interestingly, in the bar before the meal, champagne glasses were taken directly from the dishwasher to the tray meaning that they were piping hot and were going to warm the champagne, which is ultimately a waste of £80 if it is not going to be as enjoyable as it could be.  Colder / different glasses were requested by our host, but the answer from the staff was reportedly on the lines of “…Sorry, there’s not much we can do about it…” which is a) never the case and b) reveals the lower stakes level of the service.  Whilst these are all not crimes, these are simply the differences between an average / below average establishment and a higher end venue, plain and simple.

It was very good of the head chef (Aurelie Altemaire) to come and visit the table and the mash here is still heavenly, but I’m afraid my overall verdict is that the full-blown evening experience was far less than was hoped for and there is plenty of room for being more refined here if it wishes to become a more special experience.  Based on the above bar areas appearing to be more nightclub-esque in style in the later Friday and Saturday evenings, this may not be the overall goal, but I hope to be proved wrong in the future.

It has to be said that all three starters were absolutely wonderful.  The yuzu and coconut in the salmon tartare was a delightful way of making this more lively with the sweet from the yuzu and calm from the cream at the same time; the tomato salad with tomato granita had a refreshing purity about it and the hen’s egg with duck salad with parmesan crisps and shavings was so nicely balanced.  These were literally very difficult to distinguish from a Michelin starred venue.

The deconstructed eggs royale was inventively served with an original brush of wasabi hollondaise all along the bottom and the egg surrounded by potato string.  The lamb with the garlic was utterly succulent and with pleasing elements and the pea risotto with parmesan emulsion was received well.  What was also uplifting was to know that shades of the signature mashed potato from Joel Robuchon seems to have stayed with the chef (Aurélie Altemaire) where the chef has moved over from and this was great.

Desserts revealed that they were in a lower class than the preceeding dishes in terms of finesse and make up, although it was kind of the management to provide a taster of the primary desserts on one plate as a selection.  An abundance of cream was evident and whilst these were not bad, a lighter element would have uplifted the desserts for our table.

Overall however, this was a successful lunch disguised as brunch.  If you feel like a more exuberant weekend lunch time option and are not in a hurry, this is a good option to enjoy with evidentally more to offer.  I am looking forward to doing their evening meal with best options at the ready to see how this restaurant fairs in its dinner prime.

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7 / 10

Tomato jelly, chick pea foam and basil amuse bouche

Scottish venison carpaccio, chilli and berries dressing, pears and fennel pollen (a la carte)

Cured and confit salmon, smoked creme fraiche, potatoes and avruga caviar (a la carte)

Seared John Dory, Paimpoi coco beans, smoked peppers, octopus, squid, yuzu (tasting menu)

Welsh hen’s egg yolk ravioli, burned leeks, clams, shimenji mushroom (a la carte)

Merryfield duck breast, sweet potato puree, damson & miso marmalade (tasting menu)

Crispy risotto, mushroom, parsley coulis, sage (tasting menu)

Rhug Estate salt marsh lamb duo, grilled saddle and confit shoulder, oriental flavours (a la carte)

Creamed mash and fries sides

Tiramisu ice cream, chocolate sable, coffee ganache, mascarpone (a la carte)

Roasted pineapple pavlova, matcha & coconut foam, pina colada sorbet (a la carte)

Fresh figs & raspberries, cheesecake cream, cinnamon streusel, horchata ice cream (tasting menu)

Petits fours for all

Bōkan restaurant

View from north end table

Bread cluster

Brunch menu – Sat 24 June 17

Salmon tartare

Hen’s egg and duck salad

Tomato salad and tomato granita

Melon gazpacho with ham, coriander seeds and goat cheese

Lamb with aubergine and garlic

Eggs royale with wasabi hollandaise

Pea risotto with parmesan emulsion

Side of chips

Side of creamed mash

Selection of desserts

Selection of sorbets

Mascapone waffles with home made nutella

The brunch bill for 4 (incl pre-drinks)