The typical arc of the young professional in London seems to be to live east in a large house-share in their early twenties and then, when their job becomes ‘proper’ or, more often, a rich aunt falls down the stairs, they move south to buy a small flat in their late twenties. Ever the rebel, I flipped this concept on its head and turned it sideways by renting a room in a derelict pub in Kennington in my early twenties then moving to Australia to avoid a proper job in my late twenties. My aunt would be so proud… Anyway, it’s been over six years since I’ve been in Kennington, and when I step off the train to start the walk to Chino Latino, the newly refurbished restaurant that sits on the Thames’ embankment, Proustian rushes abound.
Situated in the first floor of the Park Plaza Riverbank hotel, the London branch of the Pan-Asian restaurant collection is decorated with red candles that create an ‘after-hours lounge’ effect, emphasised by the two singers on the floor-level stage behind the well-stocked Latino-themed bar. After the friendly staff have shown us to our window seat overlooking the river, we get stuck into a brace of cocktails that are as pretty as they are moreish. The Rum Re-Fashioned places El Dorado rum in a gorgeous sloping glass, the absence of too much sugar letting the light rum speak for itself. A Mezcalita replaces Tequila with mezcal and places an edible (I hope) flower as a garnish atop the light yet potent libation.
Two small white mints arrive on a small plate and I start to wonder how strong my Mezcalita is for me to black out for the whole meal, before the waitress pours water on them and they expand into small hand towels. Narrow escape.
Our tasting menu begins with a selection of amarillo maki rolls that are served with a piquant flash of yellow sauce and serve as a pleasant appetite-whetter. Much better are the wagyu beef taquitos, fashioned into a miniature savoury ’99, the crisp sugary cone clashing wonderfully with the tart smack of the meat and shredded lettuce leaf and pickled red onion serving as a flake. For me, it’s the dish of the meal. A sea bass tiradito is whisper-thin and garnished with more edible (seriously, I really hope I was supposed to eat these things) flowers.
A fried fruits de mer of sorts is up next; a bowl of crunchy calamari is enlivened by marinated cherry tomatoes and fresh coriander, while a pair of prawn tempura with panko breadcrumbs is served with a simple and perfect sweet sauce that helps the battered sea creatures slide effortlessly down our throats. A pair of Chilean sea bass and crayfish gyoza are remarkably meaty and the topping of fresh red chilli delivers a welcome punch to the taste buds.
The next course is where the particularly smooth Salentein Malbec 2014 really comes into its own, the subtle dark berry undertones pairing with the seared sirloin steak that’s served on hot rocks. In other restaurants this may be seen as a gimmick, however the rocks help keep the meat hot throughout the meal, gently warming the pink interior of the middle so that by the time that we get to the centre segments, they’ve caught up with the rest. A scattering of razored fried garlic and samphire elevates this dish to ‘Wow!’ status. A hunk of Chilean sea bass is impossibly light, slivers falling away at the touch of our forks, and it draws a very pleasing close to the savoury element of our meal.
A dessert platter is served with a digestif that tastes very much like Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, the honeyed notes of the wine swirling with the sweet globe of chocolate mousse, fruit platter and banana cake.
After bidding the staff adieu and thanking them for a great meal, I wander back to Kennington, considering whether Chino Latino is worth me moving back into the derelict pub just so I can have it as one of my locals. Debatable, but if they open a Melbourne branch I’m on the first flight out. Anyone got an aunt who wants to invest?
Chino Latino,18 Albert Embankment, London, SE1 7TJ
Tel: +44 (0) 207 769 2500
The restaurant is situated on the first floor of Park Plaza London Riverbank, a 15-minute walk from Kennington Tube Station and ten minutes from Vauxhall. It is open every day from midday to 2:30pm and from 6:00pm to 10:30pm.
Type of Restaurant: High-End Pan-Asian Cuisine With Latin Bar
“With plush surroundings, live music and a gorgeous view of the river, Chino Latino entertains its guests’ eyes and ears as much as their palates.”
Price Band: Expensive
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10
David Harfield is the director of PepperStorm Media and writes about his three passions: food, booze and travel.
Photographs courtesy of Chino Latino