Back To The Beginning | Blueprint Café, Design Museum, Shad Thames, London SE1 2YD
It’s very rare that we revisit restaurants. Sure, we have maybe a handful that we return to fairly regularly, but as a rule we never seem to have the time (or money) especially as our ‘must do’ list is getting longer rather than shorter!
So why did we go back to the Blueprint Café? Well, this restaurant holds very fond memories for Saff and I, for various reasons. Go back to the late spring of 2006 and we had just started ‘going out’ (as they used to say), a few work colleagues chipped in for a joint birthday gift and decided to buy us a restaurant gift voucher.
Back then we were a so naive when it came to dining out, a Pizza Express here and a Thai Silk there. Like so many couples we felt a little unsure, nervous even, at what restaurants we should spend our hard-earned cash at. We’d stick to the familiar, the safe, the predictable. We didn’t want to risk splashing out on the unknown. What if we didn’t like the food? What if we were made to feel uncomfortable? And most importantly, what if it was a waste of money?
In hindsight, this restaurant voucher was probably the catalyst of our dining adventures and the starting point of We Love Food. There are so many couples and families out there who want to eat out but don’t know where they should go. That’s why our website exists, to point you in the right direction and to make you feel confident that when you spend a chunk of your salary it’ll be on a delicious and great value meal. We’re not saying it’ll be a cheap meal, it will be a good meal at honest prices.
So back to 2006 and the reasons why we chose the Blueprint. Firstly, Saff and I are both graphic designers and the restaurant sits up on the first floor of The Design Museum. Secondly, Saff used to work just down the road and fancied a little trip down memory lane. And lastly, my parents and siblings were having a rare meal out at Le Pont de la Tour and I thought that it would take a little Dutch courage for Saff to survive the introductions.
Fast forward 10 years and the reasons for visiting are somewhat different. Firstly, we’d heard some great things about head chef Owen Kenworthy (The Wolseley, Sketch, Galvin’s Bistrot De Luxe, Sonny’s Kitchen and Brawn) and his menu of modern European cuisine. Secondly, the Blueprint Café is a part of the D&D group, they practically own all the restaurants on Shad Thames, enough said! And lastly because it had been Saff and I’s first date all those years previously.
It true first date style, we met at the restaurant. I must admit that I did have a few butterflies fluttering around in my stomach, or maybe they were hunger pangs. We’ve reviewed 100s of restaurants but this really did feel like a date night. Maybe the beautiful views of Tower Bridge and the magical twinkling lights that flanked my walk along the Thames added to the romance.
First impressions of the Blueprint Café aren’t what the restaurant deserves. There’s no grand entrance or initial welcome, just a couple of heavy glazed doors leading off the riverside to a rather stark, brightly lit and sterile stairwell up to the dining area. These stairs felt more like those in a hospital or, as Saff remarked, a school.
But once you get inside things dramatically improve. It’s so warm and welcoming, huge ceiling to floor windows allow stunning panoramic wintery views of Tower Bridge and the city. Decor and the table setting were simple the only standout feature was a large circular window into the kitchen. It was as if they want all your attention focussed on the cityscape outside – and with views like that who could blame them?
For the second time in a week we passed on the cocktails and ordered from the extensive wine list – with more than a little help from the restaurant manager. We played safe and ordered their very drinkable wine of the week – a 2012 Rioja Crianza, Artesa, Spain (£33). We were then pointed towards the ‘adventurous’ section. Who wouldn’t want to try a Georgian wine that’s described as ‘pheasant’s tears’? But at £45 a bottle that was just a little to adventurous for the wallet so I went for a glass of the Turkish Kaya Kapadokia at £7 a glass instead. Turkish wine is good, who knew?
The Spanish manager then quickly ran through the new menu, pointing out any recent additions and the most popular dishes. He explained that the new head chef ‘is mental with his flavours’, maybe this was a little lost in translation but we knew exactly what he meant. So on to the ‘mental’ starters!
Saff chose the Veal carpaccio (£10) partly as it was a new dish on the menu but mostly because the veal was lightly smoked and she’s a sucker for smokey and charred food. For that very reason she wanted a larger serving of the smoked aubergine. The burnt onions, on other hand, were practically perfect – just the right amount of crisp charred edging and not too many to overpower the rest of the dish.
I was very excited about my Ham hock & foie gras terrine (£9). A balanced combo of rich, silky, melt-in-your-mouth goose liver and salty, course cut ham. Served with a mild grain mustard, crunchy acidic pickled cornichons (pickled cucumbers) and a couple of slices chargrilled toast. Which I had to keep protected from Saff’s grabby hands – I told you she liked smokey.
Our main courses were just as impressive. Saff regularly orders fish so it wasn’t a surprise that she went for the Sea bream (£13). Served with blood orange, capers, croutons and (yet more grilled) purple sprouting broccoli. Saff absolutely loved the broccoli. A mini fist-pump moment for me, Saff found the citrus infused croutons too buttery, but she hates butter, I loved them and would have been happy a bowl full.
I ordered a fish dish too, not like me, especially as there was 35-day aged rib eye steak on the menu. Although I must admit I was drawn to the Monkfish tail (£20) purely because it came with saffron potatoes. I’d never eaten monkfish before, tail or otherwise – I Googled them and boy are they ugly!
Luckily looks can be deceptive, the fish flesh is dense, firm and boneless, similar to the texture of scallops with a subtle sweet flavour. This was served on a bed of spinach, chopped chives, brown shrimps and a deliciously buttery caper beurre blanc (a posh parsley sauce).
We were curious to see just how mental the chef would go with the sweet course. We’d already faced a crazy-but-it-worked white chocolate ice-cream and cucumber dessert earlier in the week. Although not quite as out there the Moelleux Raisins Soaked in Pedro Ximénez Sherry (£9) grabbed my attention.
I love rum and raisin (well, rum and raisin fudge) so I assumed sherry and raisin would be equally as good. Wrong! They were better, aided by a luxurious vanilla ice-cream and a crumb biscuit base this dessert had a festive, (dare I say the C word?) Chrismassy taste about it. Saff played a tad safer with a silky smooth and decadent Chocolate Ganache with hazelnut cream, meringue and crushed roasted peanuts (£8).
After one last gaze out of the window it was time to say our goodbyes. It’s rare with new restaurants that they’re still around a couple of years later, let alone a decade but the Blueprint Café isn’t a new launch. What makes it remarkable is the fact that they’ve kept their high standards of cooking and ingredients, whilst keeping the prices down.
Opening hours: Lunch: Monday – Friday: 12.00pm – 2.45pm
Saturday: 10am – 2.45pm Sunday: 12.00pm – 4.00pm.
Dinner: Monday – Saturday: 6.00pm – 10.45pm
Book a table online
Nearest station: London Bridge or Tower Hill (15 mins walk)
We ate as guests of the Blueprint Café, this does not affect our review in any way. We always write with complete honesty.