★★★★ | Bōkan, London
Three floors of great food, drinks, and a spectacular view is what Bōkan is all about.
Located across the water from the Heron Quays DLR stop in the Southwestern section of Canary Wharf, Bōkan is on top of the Novotel hotel building – it’s a bit hard to find and a bit in the middle of nowhere, but once you arrive you will be rewarded.
Bōkanis on the 37th, 38th and 39th floors of the hotel, and as you can imagine, the views facing west (and south and north) are simply stunning, with the Thames almost literally at the foot of the hotel, and the buildings of the Shard and the City, along with Tower Bridge, straight ahead, and the new high rises of Vauxhall in the distance. The views are superb in either cloudy or sunny weather, day or night. The early evening we were there it was still light on a cloudy day but as it got darker the clouds added a cool effect to the view.
Start your evening with a cocktail in the bar (38th floor). Their cocktail menu is limitless. We had two amazing drinks – the delicious Flying Dutchman (orange in colour, with unique ingredients including mandarin with ginger beer, and Peroni, with lime and corn wine topped with a cherry and a lemon skin twist), and the other was the Dark Whale – which was a notch better than the Dutchman and included rum, lime, mandarin, mint, ginger beer, and aromas of cinnamon, dark chocolate and unmistakable Angostura aromatic bitters for an explosion of flavours. Their cocktails are unique and tasty and very affordable in a bar that is laid back and not stuffy at all – very cool, just like the drinks!
We were given a filo pastry over a mix of beetroot and apple as a pre-meal treat – it was interesting and inventive and tangy. One starter was a chilled dish, light and fresh: steamed organic hen’s egg which was well complemented by fresh tomatoes and creamy goats cheese and perfect for a summer evening, and was a beautiful looking and very colourful dish, while the courgette cannelloni with a small slice of watermelon was adventurous and quite different, but the bisque foam sauce did not enhance the dish.
Dinner was a struggle to chose. Bōkan offers a sunset menu (£37) and an a la carte menu. We chose the Sunset menu (served before 6 pm every night) and we were glad we did as it’s excellent value with three courses. My main course of Osso Bucco (Short rib) was just perfect. Tender and succulent meat was accompanied with perfectly cooked mash and was topped with gorgeous baby carrots and strips of lemongrass. Every bite was mouthwatering. My dining companion had the Josper grilled cod with vegetables. The sugar snap peas contrasted perfectly with the saltiness of the samphire, all further enhanced by the rich butteriness of the hollandaise sauce. The dish was chunky, juicy and very flavoursome.
As one would expect desserts were fantastic. The creme brulee with fresh blackberries and ice cream was one of the best – a thin caramel shell to break over the creamy brulee filling combined with a fruity coulis and the burnt toffee flavour of the sugar shell made it special. Meanwhile, the Ivory chocolate mousse, crunchy coconut, pineapple & ginger compote with coconut sorbet was a perfect way to end a dinner – it was not heavy and the crunchiness was a nice change – and it was not that filing.
With Bōkan being an upscale modern European restaurant, the wines are très fabuleux! We were served the Asiato wine – Portuguese wine – which was a bit sweet but not too much – it went down very well and was a great accompaniment to our main courses. Other wines Bōkanserve include wines from every region imaginable – UK, Italy, New Zealand, Spain – the list goes on. The Graham’s port is a great way to end the meal – they have several so pick one – anyone!
After our dinner, we retired to the 39th floor which is the outdoor space, and the very top of the building. It’s nice and cosy and, as you can imagine, it’s all about the views. If you do nothing more when you go to Bōkan and just have a drink in the outdoor terrace then you’re missing out on a great experience of both the 37th and 38th floors.
Executive Chef Guillaume Gillan (protégé of the late Joël Robuchon) succeeds in bringing delicious dishes to Canary Wharf, with the added pleasures for cocktail lovers to enjoy the 38th-floor bar and 39th-floor rooftop terrace for a tranquil escape from the buzz of city life. Bōkan is a true experience in dining and drinking, with each floor a destination in itself. It is a place I want to experience again.
Floor 37-39, 40 Marsh Wall, London E14 9TP
T: 020 3530 0550E: [email protected]
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.