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Unfortunately the Millennium Bridge has not quite lived up to the fanfare that heralded its opening and - due to a certain 'swing factor' - has since had to close for some time. Admittedly, this is not good news for the restaurant which was relying on a fully-functioning Millennium Bridge to lead people directly from the Tate Modern to its doors. What better after a dose of bewildering modern art than a reassuring glass of good red wine and fillet steak with Bernaise sauce and chips?
However, The Bridge seems to be faring well despite the other bridge's closure. It was surprisingly busy when we visited mid week and nothing can detract from the stunning view across the river as the light fades and the Tate is shrouded in an eerie green light.
The restaurant is glass fronted to make the most of the view and has a spacious, modern feel with an open plan kitchen (always reassuring) and a bar at the far end. The bar failed its only test by delivering two very poor gin and tonics - not enough ice and completely flat tonic. We should have drawn their attention to this but I had a fit of 'Britishness' and sipped it uncomplainingly even nodding enthusiastically when asked if everything was all right.
After a wobbly start, the rest of evening was entirely complaint free. The wine list combined old and new world wines and we rather gallantly decided to try the cheapest red, an extremely good Corbiere for a mere £12.00. The menu is reasonably priced (between five and eight pounds for a starter and around twelve pounds for the mains) and combines traditional favourites such as Caesar salad and seared calves liver with bacon and mashed potato with a strong oriental influence. One of the more expensive starters was a selection of oriental Dim Sum and mains included Thai chicken satay and duck with mango and mild chillies.
We stuck with the oriental theme and started with crab and ginger fishcakes with Julienne salad and coconut cream dressing and the exotic-sounding oriental seabass on egg noodles with fresh plum and star anise. Star anise is particularly pungent so don't opt for the Seabass unless you remember including aniseed balls in you 10p bag of sweets as a child. Aniseed has one of those love it or hate it tastes and fortunately I'm in the first category. The star anise along with the thinly sliced plum and Seabass was a very good combination equalled by my friend's fishcakes. The coconut dressing (subtle), sesame seed-coated fishcakes (rubbery texture) and side salad of haricot vert, carrot and bean sprouts (crunchy) all worked well together.
For the main course there are plenty of vegetarian and fish options and an array of tempting side orders including spinach and nutmeg, tomato and red onion salad and real chips. My sizzle-cooked Mongolian lamb on a bed of oriental vegetables (£14.00) was a riot of flavours and colours. The lamb is thinly sliced and smeared with a dark earthy sauce which is offset by a liberal scattering of coriander. My friend's duck, although not quite pink enough for him, also got the thumb's up and was served with slivers of ripe mango on a bed of fat, slippery noodles.
But I reserve the most effusive comments for my pudding - an ensemble of exotic fruits. For five pounds you are presented with the most fantastic selection of beautifully presented fruit including pineapple, a fan of mango, papaya, passion fruit and a sprinkling of blood-red pomegranate seeds. The sloshing, muddy Thames could almost be a rippling sea on a far flung Caribbean island - almost.
My friend's lemon and elderflower tart with raspberry sauce and creme fraiche is a more traditional English option, although the strong taste of the lemon rather overpowered the elderflower.
You may not yet be able to wander across the Thames for a spot of Shakespeare or modern art, but this restaurant is definitely worth the effort, bridge or no bridge.
Holly Acland - July 2000
The Bridge Restaurant & Bar
1 Paul's Walk
London EC4V 3QQ
Tel: 020 7236
Fax: 020 7379 9299
Opening hours. Daytime seven days a week. Evenings Monday to Friday
Parking: Blackfriars NCP
Nearest tube: Blackfriars/St Paul's
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