A mid-afternoon Sunday meet up, where to go? Benugo Bar & Kitchen was the suggestion. It was a meeting of long time tai chi students brought about by one who was visiting from abroad, so we were after a place that we could hear each other speak, a relaxed atmosphere, and of course it would be an added benefit if we could eat something!
Still in the midst of a British summer, we hoped that the weather would hold for us to enjoy a bit of an outdoor gathering as well.
The BFI Southbank where Benugo is found looked like it would fit the bill nicely. Tucked away in a side street from the main Southbank parade, it was big yet quiet and cosy enough for our gathering. We actually had an eye on their “secret” cocktail lounge, a library tucked away behind a sliding bookcase, but unfortunately after a series of “musical chairs” we were informed that it was not opened for that afternoon.
Musical chairs you ask? Well I had booked a table via Open Table, but I wasn’t sure they would just allow us to just have a drink. It turned out that bookings are only for the restaurant/kitchen, and the lounge/bar side of Benugo did not require any bookings whatsoever. Encouraged by the relaxed atmosphere and the secret cocktail lounge, we transferred our restaurant booking to the secret cocktail lounge (that allowed bookings). But as we initially could not get in, despite trying different methods, almost to the point of selecting books of the bookcase in case of some secret mechanism, we decided to “plonk” ourselves down in the main lounge area on one of their sofas. Beware! We sank down to the springs of the sofa and had trouble getting up! After a few minutes of our sofa experience, we decided that we were really hungry after all and as no one was keeping us up to date on the secret lounge availability… perhaps the restaurant was a better idea. So back to the restaurant we went. One final musical chairs… we chose a round table so we could sit round and chat properly, however, this table ended up being rather wobbly so we had to change again and finally ended up on a sofa bench.
By this time the rest of our party arrived, and we were decidedly rather hungry. We were equally as “chaotic” with our ordering of food and drinks, I commend the two waitresses that served us – they must have thought, what a crazy bunch of women, they must be drunk… but from our order of drinks, all mocktails they must have concluded that we weren’t drunk after all but just naturally crazy!
Mocktails? These are the cocktails without alcohol as the waitress said they could do. Though it was pointed out for one of our orders, a blueberry caipirinha, that it wouldn’t work without alcohol, so in the end a fruit cocktail surprise was substituted. But the question amongst us was, could they handle an orange and pineapple juice mix? The waitress was not entirely sure when she took our order for this.
We ordered a range of dishes, starters and mains: black fig and stilton tart, goats cheese stuff courgette flower with honey (remind you of somewhere else? Salt Yard Group!), tempura battered soft shell crab with saffron aioli, pan fried trout fillet with heritage tomato salsa, salsa verde, and, cod fritter sarnie with caper aioli & fries.
A very pleasant afternoon spent among “crazy” friends with animated conversations. The cocktails, sorry mocktails, were very nice, food was good though not exceptional, pleasant waiting staff though could be a bit slow so not somewhere to go if you are in a hurry, plus try not to ask for something that is not in the formula of the menus. I think what would be interesting is to hire their secret cocktail lounge for a gathering next time round!
Benugo Kitchen & Bar
London, SE1 8XT
Tel: 020 7401 9000