George Wales enjoyed tasty tapas at the new Camino Bankside
London loves small plates. Whether it’s Venetian cicchetti at Polpo, Japanese finger food at Shackfuyu or miniature British treats at Riding House Café, the capital has chucked pretty much every global cuisine into a hot wash and shrunk it down to shareable size. Meanwhile, traditional tapas continues to hold its own, with Barrafina, Jose Pizarro and the Salt Yard Group all excelling in contemporary Spanish cuisine.
Great as they are, those three examples all fall towards the higher end of the price scale, leaving something of a vacuum in the Spanish casual-dining sector. Enter Camino, a mini chain that recently opened its fifth restaurant under Bankside’s Blue Fin Building following outlets at Blackfriars, King’s Cross and Monument. Entering a space several notches up the quality scale from La Tasca, while remaining more wallet-friendly than the likes of the Michelin-starred Barrafina, it’s a welcome addition to the relatively barren Bankside dining scene.
Any Spanish restaurant worthy of the name should have a healthy selection of cured meats and cheeses, and Camino has a very respectable range of both. We opted for a deliciously earthy Menorcan cow’s cheese served with a sweet and peppery chilli jam, and a 36-month-aged, acorn-fed Ibérico ham from legendary jamón producer Cinco Jotas. Both were excellent.
Tapas dishes are divided into meat, seafood and vegetable dishes – from the meat section we tried a delicate Secreto Iberico – pork skirt served with a sweet potato mash, with a hint of apple. Crispy-fried squid was less successful, coming off like a run-of-the-mill bar snack rather than anything particularly ocean-fresh. Happily, an Ensalada De Cogollos was far more interesting, little gem studded with anchovies and piquillo peppers and served with a cava vinaigrette. Churros served with a rich chocolate dipping sauce brought things to a pleasant close.
Housed under the HQ of a thriving media company, Camino’s chief audience will be workers from the local offices, and as such it offers a significant upgrade on its more lunch-oriented competition. The cooking might not be as cutting edge as its more storied rivals, but in terms of serving up an array of tasty, reasonably-priced tapas, it does what it does very nicely indeed.
Camino Bankside, 5 Canvey Street London SE1 9AN
Words George Wales, a freelance writer specialising in food and film. He tweets at @georgewales85