London Larder was devised in 2012 to bring you the ultimate eating and drinking guide to London. It was borne out of a need for up-to-date, quantitative and whole-heartedly recommended places to eat and drink.

Thursday, August 9, 2012



With our finger on the pulse of the London restaurant scene, we decided to grab a booking at Banca a week after its official opening. From the restaurateurs who brought us the long-standing Zuma and later Roka, La Petit Maison and Aurelia, we were expecting this venue to deliver great culinary things.

Set on the ground floor of an old HSBC Bank (Banca – get it?), the room is very simple in both design and space. A square room with a bar area to one side and a charcuterie counter to the other, with the main dining tables located in the centre. The decoration is elegant, with white leather chairs and booths, but at the same time, it is nothing innovative or particularly inspiring. The room is rather a small space and thus, has to make most of the tables: a good spot to check out the other diners, most of which appeared to be the usual Saturday Mayfair crowd (well dressed, well-spoken and well informed of this latest restaurant opening).

The menu at Banca is easy to follow and offers charcuterie, starters, mains, pasta and desserts. What is not so easy (or palatable) are the prices. We opted to try the Prosciutto di Parma from San Danieli to start (recommended to us by the waiter), priced at an eye watering £18 (for a side plate of ham! Good ham, but still, £18, really?) We also opted for the deep fried courgette flowers which came accompanied with a spicy tomato dip (more on this dip later), which we cannot deny was really tasty, but not with the £15 price tag.

The mains on offer are varied, but are not so much on the healthy side. A lot of meat and fussy fish dishes can be found, and we opted to try the T Bone hanger steak, which is sold to be shared and comes with a side of cannellini beans. Feeling like perhaps this was the dish to be tried, and again raved about by our waiters, we decided to go for it. At £55 for the dish we decided that £27.50pp was probably fair when looking at the price of the other dishes, which ranged between £25 - £35.

Our steak arrived and it had not been undersold. It was humongous in size and packed a punch on the taste front too. The cannellini beans however, were possibly the most tasteless disappointment we’ve experienced from a restaurant in a while. They seemed to serve no purpose to the dish whatsoever and the portion was barely enough for one, which was odd considering the steak comes as a main for two. Thank goodness we had ordered a side salad and chips to accompany the main. And what do chips go hand in hand with? Ketchup, of course. We asked our waiter (in his oversized white jacket) for some ketchup. ‘No you cannot get some ketchup’ he replied. Was he joking? Was he trying to crack a little Italian joke that just wasn’t funny? We asked again. ‘No, we do not have ketchup’. We figured the tomato dip we’d eaten in our earlier starter was as good as, so asked the waiter to bring some of this over. It was at almost the same time that he suggested he could bring some of the earlier tomato ‘sauce’ over. It was plain as day that when this ‘sauce’ (earlier referred to as ‘dip’) was brought over, it was indeed some very good quality, tomato sauce and that the waiter was being just being snooty at our naming it as ketchup.

Still, not ever fully satisfied with a meal out unless something sweet pops up at the end, we decided to peruse the dessert menu. We looked, we pondered and just saw ‘uninspiring’, ‘uninspiring’, ‘meh’ and ‘uninspiring’. So, ‘meh’ it was: a lemon cake served with lemon mousse and lemon sorbet, and when it arrived it was, surprisingly, better than expected. A very light choice (probably wise after the steak) with some nice textures and flavours.

Banca has come onto the London dining scene with an air of superiority, but we feel that whilst the food is good, the high prices and arrogant service are not enough to keep repeat business. Worth a visit, but only if someone else is paying.

30 North Audley Street, W1Y 1WD

Average price for main meal: £30
Average price for a glass of wine: £10
Food/Drink: 3.5/5
Service: 2/5
Value: 2/5

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