Gina Baksa savours the stars-and-stripes menu at American-inspired POTUS – the new restaurant launch on London’s Albert Embankment.
In the 15 years, I’ve lived on London’s Southbank, the area has transformed beyond recognition. From One Blackfriars to the new Crowne Plaza London, sophisticated hotel and residential development have breathed life into what once was a distinctly ungentrified part of SE1. Waterloo and Vauxhall are now entertainment destinations, not just commuter hubs.
A recent and welcome addition to the area’s new restaurant openings is the interestingly monikered POTUS – (the most zeitgeisty anachronism) located on the ground floor of the new Crowne Plaza Hotel at 10 Albert Embankment – a five-minute stroll from Vauxhall tube and mainline station.
With a nod to classic Americana, each dish is designed to reflect different elements of the US of A’s cultural identity. While the signature cocktail menu takes its inspiration from past US Presidents whose black and white portraits – JKF, Ronald Reagan among them – adorn the walls.
We enjoyed our Teddy Smash “Hat Club”, a tribute to Roosevelt’s love for Mojitos, and a vibrant JFK & Mary in the smart yet relaxing bar area – demarcated from the dining room by a warming central fire, before taking our places for dinner. Interiors here are warm: wood, steel, subtle lighting and a drop chandelier centre stage make for an impressive bar experience and includes an unusual waterfall feature on the far wall.
Circular tables in a softly lit dining space, again with POTUS black and whites around the walls. It’s a club-like atmosphere with an earthy, decadent feel. Most inviting and engaging and the hotel has plans to host intimate jazz and blues evenings to complement this seductive vibe.
Our waiter was attentive and brought us a second glass of Prosecco while we perused the generous wine list. A thoughtfully curated mix of American and New World varieties, diners can choose the richly complex Legacy from Sonoma via the fruity Flor de Campo Chardonnay from Santa Barbara to a fruity Stonestreet Aurora Point Sauvignon Blanc. New World offerings include Italian, South African, Chilean and French wines. We chose the Californian Showdown Cabernet Sauvignon – and a Pinot Grigio from Trentino – both smooth fruity accompaniments to our starters of West Coast Tuna Caesar salad and Fried Soft Shell Crab – both melt-in-your-mouth delicious. And subtly enhanced by the arrival of delicious fresh bread and chef-prepared butter with smoked sea salt and maple syrup.
The varied menu at POTUS is innovative and exciting. Seasonal ingredients are sustainably sourced. The presentation is mouthwateringly appealing. We segued into main courses of Roasted Free Range Duck Breast with crunchy sweet potatoes, beetroot red fruits purée and pistachios, all perfectly cooked and flavoursome, alongside tender stem broccoli. My friend selected the San Francisco Ciopinno: Spiced lobster broth, sea bream, scallop and clams and she was equally delighted. Other main course options included Cajun chicken, a 300oz Cowboy Steak, Truffle Mac&Cheese… POTUS demands (several) return visits to sample the juiciness on offer.
The enticing dessert list could not be ignored. After a suitable interval we sampled not one but three desserts: The Bananas Foster (banana sponge caramelised in rum and brown sugar, with crumble and coconut ice cream, the NY baked cheesecake (with fresh raspberries and eggnog ice cream) and Down Mexico Way (warm hazelnut, spiced chocolate tarte with lemon sorbet). All absolutely delicious.
If there is one area in which globalisation has been a resounding success, it’s in the cross-fertilisation of culinary expertise. Executive Chef Pablo Peñalosa Nájera has perfected his craft in Mexico, Colombia, Spain and now London, demonstrating that food is a great reconciler of perceived differences.
“I am delighted to lead the kitchen at POTUS,” he says. “We truly believe the best connection between people always happens around a table with food and drinks. We will be changing the menu seasonally in order to showcase the depth of the cuisine, but will continue to utilise London’s great access to the best ingredients throughout the year.”
Culinary experiences, like great art, tend to linger long after the experience is over. POTUS has achieved just that; a gastronomic delight using the finest and freshest elements that encourages diners to fully indulge their culinary senses. Highly recommended.
POTUS – Where and how
Address: 10-11 Albert Embankment, London SE1 7SP
During the week, POTUS is open for breakfast from 6.30am – 10am, for lunch from 12pm – 3pm and dinner from 6pm – 10:30pm. On weekends, the restaurant opens for breakfast from 7:30am – 11:30am, lunch from 12:30pm – 15:00pm and dinner from 6:00pm – 10:30pm. Last orders are by 10pm for dinner service.
Bar food is served daily from 12pm- 22.30pm, with beverages served from 12pm- 1am.
For reservations, please book through Opentable or call Reception on 0203 1460 371.
For more information, visit www.crowneplazalondonalbertembankment.co.uk