On The Path To Happiness? | Camino Bankside, 5 Canvey Street, London, SE1 9AN
It’s not very often we get to review a restaurant during our lunch break – mainly due to day job restrictions. But this time we had no excuse, Camino is on the ground floor of our building and from what we had sampled at their opening party, we anticipated a pretty good meal.
Camino opened its fourth restaurant on the spot that was previously the ever frustrating Del’ Aziz, just behind the Tate Modern on the South bank, in a little area called Bankside Mix. Over the last couple of years we’ve witnessed the area blossom, from an area with only a couple of greasy spoons and run-down pubs to a thriving mini food-lover’s mecca. Now there’s a Hixter, a Tonkotsu (opening soon and previously Tsuru) a Vapiano and more chains arriving all the time. Plus of course the only indie restaurant in the area, the brilliant Table cafe.
Camino is a modern and sleek space that’s full of natural light during the day and apparently, softly lit during the evenings. Polished concrete flooring, dark wood paneling and traditional tiles adorn the walls. Downstairs is dominated by a long bar complete with ornate highly polished beer taps and an open jamón counter, where their Ibérico black pig hams are professionally carved by highly trained cortador de jamón. I’ve tried it, and it is soooo much harder than it looks.
Upstairs is a little more intimate and cosy, perfect for a big table booking. Outside Camino utilises a large south-facing terrace with loads of seating to make the most of those warm summers lunch times/evenings that England is rumoured to have…
This is where we sat, outside in the glorious sunshine during heat wave week. The clock was already ticking, we had an hour or maybe an hour 15 at the very most. We had looked at the menu online so had a rough idea of what we wanted to order.
First up, drinks! They do some good gin-tonics served in huge goblets and a nice little selection of cocktails but we ordered a glass of sherry each, when in Rome and all that… Saff asked the waitress which one she recommended but she didn’t have a clue, this was the first sign that perhaps service wasn’t going to go very well.
The Fino Puerto Reserva, Lustau (£5.50 for 100ml or £19.50 for 375ml) was a hell of a lot drier than we expected. The smell was deceptive, the aroma was that of your typical sweet sherry, but it was more like a super-dry white wine.
Like most tapas restaurants the menu is split into the usual hams, cheeses, meat, from the sea and vegetable sub sections with some nibbles, salads, soups and desserts thrown it for good measure. We spread our net quite wide, trying to cover every section and I don’t think we did a bad job. We seemed to be on schedule. Seated – check. Drinks ordered – check. Food ordered – check and only 15 minutes gone.
We sat chatting in the sunshine as the the beautifully presented tapas dishes began to arrive. First up was a bowl of Ensalada De Garbanzos (£4.50) – Fuentesauco chickpeas, fennel, orange and hazelnut salad. Again another veggie dish that I really enjoyed – what’s happening to me? But then again you simply can’t go wrong with the fennel and orange combo, especially when eating al fresco.
Next up was Secreto Ibérico (£9.75) – pork skirt sat atop some smooth sweet potato mash. The meat looked rather pale, oily and fatty, but it wasn’t at all. The meat was really tender with touches of char from the kitchen’s open coal grill. Then our fave Pan Con Tomate (£3.50) – crispy bread, garlic, tomato, pimentón with extra virgin olive oil) and the Arroz Negro (£5) – black rice, cuttlefish, squid ink and alioli arrived.
Authentic Pan Con Tomate is one of our must order dishes – we fell in love with it in Barcelona. Unfortunately, Camino’s version were a little overloaded with chopped tomato and lacking in salt with a paprika dusting adding smokiness instead. I wasn’t overly keen on the Arroz Negro so Saff happily lapped up my portion.
Four dishes in and we had about 30 minutes of our lunch hour left, so far so good. Then it all started to slow down. Other tables were starting to ask for their bills, which seemed to be taking up all of the staff’s time.
Eventually two more of our dishes arrived, a delicious Hamburguesa Ibérica (£5.75) – mini Ibérico pork burger, Idiazábal cheese, roasted onions, watercress and a side of patatas bravas) and the Pulpo (£10.75) – pan-roasted whole octopus tentacle, sliced purple potatoes, paprika and a drizzle of olive oil. It’s a shame these turned up when they did. A) Because they were my favourite dishes. B) I was getting full. C) Time was running out and we didn’t want to rush them.
Two of the items we ordered didn’t materialise, on this occasion we weren’t overly concerned as we had to get back to work, although we were disappointed not to have time for some Churros (£4.50). Just as we were preparing to leave some Riojan chorizo served with roasted piquillo peppers (£5) arrived, not the smaller portion of Chorizo Fino (£2.75) that we’d ordered. The dish that DIDN’T turn up was the Jamón Ibérico Bellota Etiqueta Roja (£11.75) – 32 month aged acorn-fed ham from a cross of Ibérico and Duroc breeds – oh well, teething problems?
As we were going to be late back to the office anyhow, we decided to finish the meal with a couple of Café Bombóns (£2.60) – a Canary Islands speciality made with espresso and condensed milk and our favourite from Tapas Revolution. Warning! This coffee is already sweet, you DO NOT need to add any sugar, the waitress bought some over, luckily we knew not to add any to our drink.
We were at lunch a little over an hour and 15 minutes (time which was made up at the end of the day – just in case any of our bosses are reading this!) I’m aware that we ordered maybe one or two dishes too many but we had told the waitress that we were here for our lunch hour and tapas are meant to be speedy (well they were in Barcelona and Madrid).
There are a lot of office workers around this branch and if Camino get their lunch service wrong then they could be in trouble. As said earlier, I’m sure these are just start up problems and the speed of service will improve. Either that or skip lunch altogether and rock up at the weekends for their bottomless brunch – three courses and bottomless cava for £30 per person, excellent value and no need to hurry.
Apart from the service, we were pretty impressed with the quality of the food, if we come back all we’d really need for lunch is the Hamburguesa Ibérica, especially as it comes with a little pile of patatas bravas (they need a tad more sauce though).
The best bit? Getting back to the office in just three minutes. We’ll give the restaurant another go when the staff have wrinkled out some of their teething problems. Not that slow service will stop us going back for a post-work happy hour cocktail or two, anything rather than queuing at the overcrowded bar next door.
5 Canvey Street, London, SE1 9AN
Telephone: 020 3617 3169
Opening hours: All Day Tapas (Slightly reduced menu 4-5pm)
Monday – Tuesday: Midday – 11pm
Wednesday – Friday: Midday – Midnight
Saturday: 11am – 11pm
Sunday: 11am – 10pm
Book a table online
Nearest station: Southwark or London Bridge (7 mins walk)
We ate as guests of Camino, this does not affect our review in any way.
We always write with complete honesty.